When it comes to internet marketing for law firms, attorneys are their own worst enemies. They have inadvertently helped to create ad support a system that conspires to extort money from them. It’s positively crazy.
Lawyers frequently make foolhardy choices about their online presence that in the long run actually make it more difficult for their websites to be found. Their poor decision making also gives legal marketing directory sites more power–elevating them in webs searches. And ultimately this allows legal directories to charge lawyers exorbitant amounts of money for sponsored directory listings or leads.
The best way for me to simply describe this chaos is with an analogy. Imagine a military leader that willingly gives the enemy the cipher that can decrypt classified messages; the coordinates of troops, supplies and artillery; and the blueprints for secret weapons. Should that military leader be shocked when he loses the war? No! Attorneys are literally doing the same thing every day.
Lawyer directory websites dominate page one of Google searches. You know who they are. I don’t need to name names, do I? How are the able to do it, you ask? A big part of the reason is because attorneys are enabling them. Here are a few of the reasons why:
Playing Both Sides: Directory Sites That Also Sell Attorney Websites
Are you an attorney with a FindLaw website? If so, you are giving FindLaw access to your Google Analytics data—all the information on who is coming to your website; what is bringing them there; what they do while they are there; and what information visitors find most compelling. If you use pay-per-click marketing such as Google AdWords then FindLaw has all that data too. Do you seriously think that they aren’t going to use that information for their own benefit?!
Companies that own both lawyer directories and offer attorneys website services are, as my grandfather use to say, “getting you both coming and going.” Let me spell it out for you:
- You are paying them to build and manage a website for you;
- You are giving them access to all the data that tells them what does or doesn’t make your website show up in internet searches;
- They are using that data to help their directory pages rank higher in searches;
- They then charge attorneys for inclusion in the directories;
- Some of the attorney directories also sell leads to lawyers;
- They sell display advertising and sponsored listings in those directory pages;
- And you keep paying them every month to continue to host your website for you.
It’s as if attorneys are paying protection money to the thugs that are terrorizing them.
How Lawyer Marketing & Lead Management Platforms Are Undermining Their Customers’ Websites
Several of the lawyer directory companies offer “marketing platforms” services for attorneys. These services do not require the attorney to have a website that was created by the directory company.
These services link the attorney’s directory listing, website contact forms, phone numbers and Google analytics to one backend system that allows them to manage and follow-up with potential clients. Sounds awesome, right? But by using the directory provider’s platform attorneys are, just like in the previous example, giving away all their precious data. They are giving away the keys to the kingdom.
The Shocking Truth About Attorney Awards & Rating Badges
Even if you don’t have a website that was created by one of these directory companies and/or you aren’t using their marketing platform you are probably helping to contribute to the problem. Do you have one of those award or rating badges on your website? Did you use html code provided by the directory site that links the badge to your profile on their site? Well, then you are most definitely helping to boost the directory in internet search rankings.
One of the important factors that help to boost a website is the number of quality links that are going to that site. So every lawyer whose website links back to an attorney directory is sending a message to Google that says, “this directory site is super-important and should appear at the top of searches.”
Legal directory sites strategically created those awards and rating badges for their own benefit, not to help the attorneys. The lawyer directories cleverly turned attorneys into drones that unknowingly work against their own best interest and in favor of the directory.
How To Stop The Insanity
When you look at the three elements that I have described, it is as if lawyers have been feeding the very dragons that are terrorizing the villages and carrying off the children. Attorneys that want to unshackle themselves from legal marketing serfdom and begin to take back territory from these uncaring internet landlords have options.
First, comb your website for every award or badge that links to a directory site and delete the linking code. Keep the picture of the badge or award, if you like. Just get rid of the link. Be sure to do it everywhere that the badge or award appears. If enough attorneys were to take this small action the power of the legal directory sites would be greatly diminished.
Second, if you are using one of the directory company’s “marketing platforms” get off of it as quickly as you can. Their other tools available.
Third, and most importantly, if your website was designed, managed or is hosted by a company that also has a lawyer directory you need to seriously consider migrating to an independent attorney website company.
People frequently ask me which internet marketing tools I recommend. Well, here is a list of a few of the tools I use.
Website Content Management – I have been using Foster Web Marketing’s DSS website content management tool since 2007. I like it because:
- FWM has no ties to any of the lawyer directory websites;
- The DSS is easy to use;
- FWM goes to great lengths to educate their clients—giving them specific tactics and techniques that help your website climb in the search results;
- The FWM team is knowledgeable and helpful. Great customer service!!
Analytics – I am constantly shocked at how many attorneys don’t ever look at their Google Analytics data or don’t even know the user id and password to log into their account. I’ll have to write a whole article on that soon.
Contact Management – Until about a year ago I was using iContact for email newsletters; email blasts; and auto-responders. iContact is inexpensive, simple to use, etc. I love it. But last year Foster Web Marketing added a contact management system to the DSS. Having your website backend tied directly into your contact management system makes a ton of sense. So I migrated off of iContact.
Call Tracking – Earlier this year I started using Call Tracking Metrics (which integrates with Foster Web Marketing’s DSS) to track the source of all phone calls into our office. This tool is great. It allows me to know which page on our website someone was on when they picked up the phone to call us. It will show me how that person found our site, the pages they visited before the decided to call, etc. I love it!!
Chat – Over the years I’ve tried a number of internet chat service providers. Frankly, I am not entirely sold on chat. I think that it creates a lot of low quality leads. And I suspect that the few good leads that come in via chat would have filled out our website contact form or picked up the phone to call us if chat where not available on our site. However, for the moment I am experimenting with chat again. Of all the chat services that I used or evaluated I think that Apex Chat is by far the best value. And, again, it is completely integrated into the Foster Web Marketing DSS tool—so it’s just a no-brainer.
There are a number of other tools that I use but I’ll save those for another day. I don’t want to get distracted from the key message of this article.
Attorneys need to take back their power and release themselves from the tyranny of the legal directory websites. Are you ready to stop the insanity?