Writing Guidelines to Help Improve Your Search Ranking

Rumor has it that SEO is dead.  I suppose you could say the old way of doing SEO is most certainly guaranteed not to work -- no more keyword stuffing or irrelevant content, which will likely get you tossed to the bottom of search results instead of where you want to be, which is on the first page.

However, I would say that the death knell for SEO is a bit premature if you define it the way we do:  being smart about how you develop your content so that it is naturally attractive to search engines because it is attractive to the people searching for your area of expertise.

Earlier today, there was a post over at Hubspot.com with an infographic that lists 13 copywriting rules for obtaining better search rank results.  None of these, you will note, are aimed at “gaming” Google’s system -- rather, they are helpful in understanding the type of content that Google rewards.  We all need to know that.

For example, keywords are still important since they indicate the subject matter you are writing about, which Google uses to link your content to searches using those same words.  But the watchword here is “natural” -- you need to use your keywords in your content naturally, and sprinkle in some synonyms or related keywords that can expose your content to different search queries.

A hat tip to ContentVerve.com and atcore for aggregating this information: 

5 Steps to Higher Client Retention Rates

Landing new clients is only the beginning of a harder task: keeping them. Now the real work begins as you find a ways to keep those clients you have worked so hard to get. 

Along with new clients comes the inherent need for more time to spend on their cases. Now the problem is not enough new clients but work flow and time management to handle them all. With such a limited schedule, how do you keep them happy so they don't run off and hire your competition?  

Here are five steps to take for better client retention:

1. Take some action on the case immediately. As soon as the client signs on, spend time that day or the next taking some action on the case. This is not only to protect your client's best legal interests, but also to show them their need for immediate legal help. It also shows them that you genuinely care about them. 

2. Send the client some form of written communication within 48 hours of taking the case. It isn't enough to start working immediately on their case. You must show that you are working and making progress so your client knows they are important to you.

It is also wise to mail a hard copy of all of your communications with your client. Often, it is easier for people to pay for services they can actually visualize. When they can see some physical evidence of your work, it seems worth more to them. 

Follow-up letters after phone calls or in-person meetings are another great way to clarify and avoid misunderstandings. 

3. Send out a brief survey directed at new clients. Within one week of landing the new client, send out a one-page survey. This can be a great way to collect data on vital questions for use in future law firm marketing strategies; this is also a good time to ask them for their birthdays and anniversaries so you can send a card. 

4. Send out a client satisfaction survey after you have completed the case. This is another great way to maintain good communication with clients. It shows them that you really care about their opinions and feelings. They will see that their cases and how it all turns out are important to you. 

5. Send the client a handwritten thank you note. Nothing says you care like a handwritten note. Send out the note the same day they select you as their attorney. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but you should do it because no one else does. 

Clients must feel like you are there to serve in their best interests because you want to be there. Lawyers have the negative reputation of only being in it for the prestige and the money. While these are two important factors from your business view, they are of little concern to your client. You must show you care through your law firm marketing efforts and your communication with your clients. If you don't care about them, they won't care about you.

National Trial Lawyers Free Webinar July 24: Generating New Clients for PI Law Firms

If you’re a personal injury attorney, you know that your chosen field of practice is one of the most competitive on the planet.  Many PI attorneys spend thousands of dollars every year to generate leads with varying degrees of success.

When you are competing against hundreds of other PI attorneys, you don’t have an extra cent to waste. 

Which is why the National Trial Lawyers is presenting a free seminar to its membership on Thursday, July 24 at noon PT/3 p.m. ET on Generating New Clients for a Personal Injury Law Firm.

Join me and The Law Blog Guru Larry Bodine to learn:

  • How to optimize the #1 place clients look for PI attorneys
  • The proven strategy of finding the riches in the niches
  • How to get the most from TV advertising without spending $100,000 a month
  • 5 things PI attorneys should not waste money on
  • Whether to buy from lead generation companies and how to do it without getting burned
  • How to turn your contacts and clients into your sales force by building a referral network
  • Steps to become a well recognized thought leader to attract bigger cases

You can register online for this free webinar now. 

If the time doesn’t work for you, register anyway and get a recording of the webinar sent to you to watch at your convenience.

Some Things Bear Repeating: 12 Ways to Improve Your Intake Process

Since I wrote yesterday about the necessity of having the right people performing your intake process, I thought I would share some tips I posted a few months ago on 12 ways to improve your intake process:

1. Have a dedicated person answer the phone. We’ve been astounded by how many firms answer the phone in a way that left the distinct impression we were annoying them when we called, as if we were taking them away from another priority.

2. Show compassion and empathy. Of the law firms we’ve shopped, only 21%  expressed any compassion or sympathy when our staff told them about their situation: “I was in a car accident and I’m having a lot of pain in my neck and lower back!” A simple, “I’m so sorry to hear about that. Are you OK?” can go a long way toward connecting with a potential client.

3. Get the caller’s name and phone number at the beginning of the call in case you get cut off. If you do get cut off unexpectedly, then call them back immediately. Somewhere during the call you should also get their email address or at least permission to text them information after the call.

4. If you send someone to your website, SPELL it out clearly. Many law firm website domain names are hard to spell or understand over a bad cell phone connection. One intake person gave us the wrong website altogether that sent us to a different law firm!

5. Do what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it. Many firms said they would send us information via email or mail – we only received one response.

6. Do not answer the phone with a generic “law firm.” Clearly say the name of your law firm.

7. If you are going to place someone on hold, always ask for his or her permission first.

8. Write out three to five reasons that make your law firm different. Make certain anyone talking with prospects can recite these from memory and knows how to weave them into a call. Everyone, whether they verbalize it or not, wants to know the answer to, “Why should I hire you?”

9. Remember that people buy emotionally and justify logically, so the person on the phone must build an emotional relationship with the caller.

10. Have a dedicated person to return all voice mails the same day.

11. Never make an attorney responsible for following up with leads. Even though they may have the best of intentions other things will take priority. Task a staff person with following up with leads and setting appointments with the attorney.

12. Never quote fees over the phone. The sole purpose of the call is to get qualified leads into your office. You will always have a higher closing ratio if you meet prospects face to face rather than trying to sell them over the phone.

Do You Have the Right People in Place for Client Intake?

Recently we offered a free intake process review -- a “secret shopper” service -- to the first 50 law firms that signed up and that offer got fulfilled fairly fast. 

One of the things we have learned in these intake process reviews is the necessity for a culture shift to occur in law firms so that the person or persons responsible for the firm’s intake process is chosen based on a background in sales, not customer service.

I recently illustrated why in an interview with the Intake Academy:

If your computer breaks, or your cell phone has a problem, you call customer service. You don’t mind being put on hold for an inordinate amount of time – well, you do mind, but are willing to put up with it – because you need to get your problem solved and, frankly, you don’t have a choice.  If you’ve got your cell phone with AT&T and want to get it fixed, you don’t get to call Verizon if AT&T puts you on hold for 45 minutes.

But when it comes to law firms -- especially personal injury or any kind of consumer law -- there is an intensely competitive environment where consumers have hundreds, if not thousands, of choices. All of them are easily identifiable with the click of a mouse or the turning of the page. It is amazing how much competition there is.

You don’t want people handling your intake process who have a customer service background; you want people who have sold stuff over the telephone. Most of the time, even if they have people in a formal intake center, most law firms have the wrong people. The rest of the law firm sees it almost as a necessary evil instead of this is a money-making function.

Most law firms that we’ve worked with over the years don’t even have an intake department – not a formal one, at least. They basically have a receptionist and somebody who’s a rollover person in case the receptionist gets too busy.

The purpose of having an intake or call center is to really transform that culture from being an intake one to a sales-oriented center. What I mean by that is going from order taker to rainmaker. I don’t want a bunch of order takers in the law firm; I want a bunch of rainmakers – a bunch of people who are committed and dedicated to getting people from being a potential client to being a retained or assigned client.

If you’re a consumer law attorney and want to learn more about turning leads into appointments and appointments into sales, you’ll probably be interested in our on-demand Proven Strategies to Win More Clients webinar.  By watching this webinar, you can learn proven steps to increase your lead conversion rate, including 3 steps for turning leads into appointments, 5 ways to increase your show-up rates and 4 ways to get more appointments to sign up at the initial consultation.  

6 Steps to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan for Your Law Firm

If one of your marketing goals is to become proficient at social media networking, then you need to follow the advice of Yogi Berra, who said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”

Translation:  you need a plan.

Here are the six steps you need to take to create a social media marketing plan for your law firm, inspired by a recent post at Buffer.com:

Step 1:  Choose your social media networks.  Frankly, you don’t want or need to participate on every social media network out there.   Where you need to be is where your clients and prospects are.  For B2B attorneys, that is LinkedIn.  For B2C attorneys, it’s Facebook and Twitter.  And for both, Google + is a must just for the SEO benefits it delivers.  Check out these demographic profiles for the major social media networks from the Pew Research Internet Project to help you figure out where your prospects are likely hanging out online.

Step 2:  Complete your profiles.  Once you have selected your social media networks, you need to complete your profile on each network.  Include both visuals and text and make your profiles consistent across all the platforms.  Be sure to include your address for local SEO and to let people find you easily.  Include your main keywords.  Keep the content fresh by updating.

Step 3:  Find your voice.  Spend some time on each social network you have chosen to participate on to discover the right tone and voice for your posts.  Since social media networking is much like offline networking, be yourself.  Learn what is appropriate -- and not -- to share. 

Step 4:  Schedule your posts.  Participating on social networks means just that -- participating!  Research shows that you should be posting on Facebook 5-10x/week, Twitter at least 5s/day, Google+ at least 5x/day and LinkedIn once every weekday.  For the best times to post, check out this recent timing research from Sumall.  Try to include an image with most if not all posts -- research also shows posts with photos get shared up to 35% more. 

Step 5:  Analyze, test and repeat.  Check your stats on your social media networks to see what posts are getting the most traction online -- you can use a reporting tool like Buffer Analytics to create a dashboard for all your networks so you can review stats at a glance.   Then repeat your successes.

Step 6:  Automate and engage.  There are several online tools you can use to automate the scheduling of your posts that will save you a lot of time and enable you to keep things running smoothly when you’re too busy or away.  However, there does need to be a person responsible for monitoring your social media networks so comments or questions are answered promptly.

If you’d like a little more help with your Internet marketing, call us at 888-588-5891 or click here to sign up for a free one-on-one Strategy Session with a Rainmaker Advisor who will listen to your specific marketing challenges. 

The Rainmaker Advisors are hand-picked and trained to identify marketing strategies that you can implement to grow your practice.

Law Firm Shows the Power of the Positive Review

Yesterday I wrote about how to handle negative online reviews; today I’d like to share something I’ll bet most of my readers here will find astounding.

We have a client -- a Phoenix family law practice -- that currently gets 80-90% of its leads from the Internet.  The majority of those leads come from review sites like Yelp, Google and Avvo and even some from YellowPages.net and less travelled review sites.

And these leads are above average.  The firm is good about a quick response to an email or phone call, following up to book an appointment the next day and calling to make sure the prospect shows.  They have a very low no-show rate in their main office -- these people come ready to engage and, usually, hire the firm for their family law problem.

This firm has done a great job of leveraging happy client experiences into positive online reviews.  While many firms are wary of online reviews, this firm embraces them and even posts links on the home page of their website with a large banner that touts what their clients are saying about them.

Yes, there are a couple of negative reviews in their pile of client ratings online, but those few serve to legitimize the entire process for them.  People find balanced reviews more believable; all positive ratings are usually suspicious.

However you craft your approach to online reviews, you need to be aware that they are not going away.  People want to share their experiences, and others looking for those same services want to know what experience others have had with a service provider.  People are not dumb; they will weigh the good with the bad in their own minds and discount those reviews that are clearly irrational or offbeat. 

If you are not harnessing the power of the online review like my family law client then you are missing a golden opportunity to increase your Internet-based leads.  If you let the good work you have done for years speak for you, it will do more for you in bringing you prospects who will already have a propensity to buy from you.

Converting prospects into clients

Lead conversion is a generally overlooked area at many law firms, yet learning lead conversion techniques that help you convert prospects into clients could save you thousands of dollars every year and make you 10 times that.

We have an on-demand seminar that is available for you to download and watch at your convenience, that will teach you what types of intake analysis you should be doing and the numbers you should be tracking to increase your conversion rate as well as show you a proven system for converting more leads into clients.

You can watch the How to Convert Leads Into Paying Clients seminar at your convenience by clicking here now.

Defense or Offense? Best Response Strategies for Negative Online Reviews

Last Friday’s Law Blog at the Wall Street Journal zeroed in on some of the strategies attorneys are using to defend themselves against negative reviews on the popular review site Yelp.  One of these, not surprisingly, is litigation.

The article noted one Austin law firm that sued a former client for posting false and disparaging remarks on Yelp.  In Georgia earlier this year, an appeals court upheld a $405,000 verdict against a former client of a divorce attorney who had called the attorney a crook on Yelp. 

However, there are more instances of attorneys being reprimanded for inappropriate responses to negative review than there are victories for the disparaged in a court of law.  Most of the reprimands are for revealing confidential client information in responses to bad reviews

Two California bar associations -- L.A. and San Francisco -- have tackled the ethics of refuting online reviews, finding that responding to a review from a client whose matter has concluded is not barred, but that the response should be “proportionate and restrained” and not disclose any confidential client information. 

Dallas litigator John G. Browning penned a piece for the July issue of the Texas Bar Journal on this issue, calling it “a new ethical trap for lawyers.”  He recommends that attorneys follow the advice of my friend Josh King, general counsel at Avvo.com, who has counseled that attorneys can turn a negative review into a positive marketing opportunity this way:

“By posting a professional, meaningful response to negative commentary, an attorney sends a powerful message to any readers of that review. Done correctly, such a message communicates responsiveness, attention to feedback, and strength of character. The trick is to not act defensive, petty, or feel the need to directly refute what you perceive is wrong with the review.”

As Browning notes, “When responding online to a negative posting, you’re not just responding to one former client but to a reading audience of many potential clients.”

Responding positively and effectively to negative online reviews is something we discuss at our Rainmaker Retreat legal marketing workshop.  I’ve just finished a great one last weekend in San Francisco and we have other sessions coming up in August and September:

August 8-9, 2014 -- Las Vegas, NV

September 19-20, 2014 -- Miami, FL

Click here to learn more and register online for an upcoming Rainmaker Retreat, or call 888-588-5891.

Great Story by a Great Attorney!

Every so often you run across a story that really demonstrates what it means to fight for a client.  I posted this story on my Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, and had to share it here in its entirety -- a wonderful testament to a persistent attorney and his associate who were determined to prevail for their client.  Well done!

The Biggest Success of my Career

By Darol Tuttle, Attorney at Law, P.S. (Tacoma, WA)

I have permission to share the following story and my client, Rachel, has graciously agreed to allow me to post her photo with the story. I want to thank her for allowing me to do so because her story is important and she is likely not alone.

I met Rachel after she called my law office and asked me to help her with a claim for widow’s pension that had been denied by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. During our first meeting, she told me the following story.

Rachel was married for eleven years, happily, to an Army soldier. Her husband was deployed to Iraq but returned with a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The condition was torturous and he was often violent. He became abusive. The once happy couple went to marriage counseling. Finally, the counselor advised Rachel, our client, to divorce her husband out of fear that the husband would kill her. She reluctantly did and obtained a Divorce Decree, i.e., a Court Order for divorce. Tragically, Rachel’s husband committed suicide soon after.

Like many Army wives, Rachel had struggled financially while her husband was alive. The couple certainly made ends meet but were not rich; no one becomes rich serving their country. After his death, Rachel was devastated from the divorce, death and financial ruin. She worked at a job she loved but it paid so little she was barely able to pay her bills.

Seeking help, she applied to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a pension for surviving spouses of Veterans who have died from a service connected injury, illness or disability. The pension is called “Dependency and Indemnity Compensation” or commonly “Widow’s Pension.” The VA denied the claim because she was not married to the Veteran on the date of his death.

She had gone to several “Veteran Service Organizations” for help. None would help her. Finally, she contacted us through our website. I agreed to meet with her – if for no other reason than just to say how sorry I was that this had happened. Anyone who has gone through something like Rachel had, gets the courtesy of a meeting with me anytime.

Once I met Rachel, I just felt like we couldn’t just let this one go. Sometimes being a good lawyer means not taking “no” for an answer. She had loved her husband. The Army recognized her husband’s condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a service connected injury. She divorced only because of his condition and her concerns for her safety. It just did not seem right.

I have a bright young associate attorney, Katie Bernstein . I put her on the project and asked her if there was any proverbial “wiggle room.” She reported back that the claim could be appealed if we could show that the Divorce Decree had been vacated by Superior Court. There is a civil procedure to vacate a Court Order but it is extremely difficult to obtain. Not practicing family law, I asked Rachel to obtain an attorney to vacate the Decree and, if so, come back with the Order and we could file an appeal with merit.

Rachel explains that she then called 40 family law attorneys to find help. 39 told her it was impossible. Finally, the 40th attorney, Sans Gilmore, agreed to take the case and successfully obtained a Order to Vacate within three weeks. (Kudos to Mr. Gilmore. I am proud to say that Mr. Gilmore is apparently a former JAG attorney like me, i.e., also a veteran himself.)

Astounded to have Rachel return so quickly with an Order to Vacate, I directed my staff to submit a Statement in Support of Claim to the VA on the pending case even though it was officially closed and began to prepare myself for a two to three year appeal.

I was completely astounded to get a phone call while I was leaving for Memorial Day weekend from Katie indicating that the VA had approved the claim, already deposited a check in Rachel’s bank account for back benefits in excess of $20,000 and she would now receive pension and health care benefits for the rest of her life.

Speaking with Rachel after this success, she commented “No one was willing to help me but I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I also know that there are others going through this too. But, even I am in total shock. I can’t believe it because it turned out to be so simple once I had someone to help me.” Rachel now has financial security. She also noted that she can continue to work at her job that she loves. “It gives me hope for the future.”

Sometimes, I am very proud to be a lawyer.

How to Increase Your Engagement on Facebook [Infographic]

If you’re using Facebook to “sell” your practice, you are probably disappointed in your results.  You see, Facebook is about engagement and anything that smacks of a hard-sell is usually tuned out. 

You will get much better results if you simply surrender to what Facebook can deliver, which is an opportunity to meet new prospects and to share your knowledge that may someday lead to new business. 

A lot of new business connections occur on Facebook based on people you used to know --old high school or college friends that you connect with there and then educate them naturally on what you do now.  In that sense, approaching Facebook as a referral source cultivation opportunity could be a mindset that will pay you big dividends in the future.

That said, there are certain things you can do that research shows leads to more engagement with your Facebook posts.  This infographic lays that out: