Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Are SEO Gigs on Fiverr Any Good? I Spent Some Money to Find Out.

Over the last several years, I still see websites using terrible, utterly spammy SEO approaches that are actually helping them to rank.  Every month, especially when there is news of “volatility” in the SERPs, I expect to see these guys crash and burn after a penalty, but alas, there they are ranking—all thanks to 425k blog comments that they sprayed across the internet.

How it is that they don’t get penalized is beyond me, but there they are, right in the money spots for some fairly competitive keywords.  I know for a fact that one of these websites is run by the owner of a competitor of my client’s business, a person that has no SEO training beyond “links will get you to page 1.”

In January of this year, I decided to do a little experiment.  Can I rank a website locally solely through Fiverr gigs?

This competitor of my client has been ranking his site by purchasing the following kinds of backlinks:

  • profile links on websites that allow dofollow links
  • massive amounts of blog comments
  • links from nonsense articles hosted on servers in Russia

It would not surprise me if he were buying traffic as well, but there was no verifiable way for me to check that.  I opted to purchase some traffic packages as well

I settled on the legal niche.

I do a lot of SEO work for law firms, so it is a niche that I am highly familiar with.  This would also allow me to compare the results of my white hat efforts for local clients against the spam efforts that I put forward for this website.  Additionally, SEO for law firms is notoriously competitive, and I thought that it would be even more powerful to rank a site in this niche than a less competitive one.

Since this website would technically constitute attorney advertising, I got a client to agree to allow me to use his phone number and contact info on the site just in case someone actually did contact him for representation.

I set up the site for my Fiverr SEO.

I didn’t want this site anywhere near my legit work, so I opened another hosting account and put up a WordPress site in about an hour (if I ever do this again, I’m going to hire a $50 Fiverr gig to do the site, which would make this an even better experiment).  It was a responsive template that didn’t look that bad.  I really put minimal time into creating content, so the copy was on the thin side, at around 200-300 words.

I bought my first Fiverr SEO gig ($6)

do fiverr seo gigs workdo fiverr seo gigs work

Sure, I’d love to get some links from Harvard, Berkeley, and Penn State!  I also loved the fact that he was “Expert and Best Hi Quality Backlinks Provider” born and raised in the old U.S. of A.  I placed my order, which was completed within a day or two.   I received a spreadsheet with the urls of the links that were “created” including the following:

http://brooklynatlantis.poly.edu
http://ask.buffalostate.edu
http://boinc.umiacs.umd.edu
https://netplusadmdev0.internet2.edu/
http://ict.usc.edu/
https://vue-forums.uit.tufts.edu
http://www.unioncountyga.gov
http://setiathome.berkeley.edu
http://courses-sandbox.uplb.edu.ph
http://www.peacockroom.wayne.edu
http://milkyway.cs.rpi.edu/milkyway
http://ecologicalurbanism.gsd.harvard.edu/
http://volunteer.cs.und.edu
http://rdbp.sea.gov.ua
https://www.iupui.edu
http://community.openscholar.harvard.edu

Impressive, right?  I should be able to just sit back and let the visitors start rolling in!

Unfortunately, they were all forum profiles with a link to my new site and the anchor text that I was targeting.  Six months have passed, and none of these links have shown up in my search console.  Neither Majestic or Ahrefs ever found them either, so it really was a wash.  Obviously, these pages are not getting indexed and I’m out $6.  Could have bought a sandwich!

Since that was a wash, what about a Fiverr gig that actually gives me some metrics? ($21)

fiver gig listing tf and cf

Ok, so here we have a gig that is going to give me 5 “PBN links” with a high TF and CF and a DA/PA of 25.  I ordered the gig and got my report a few days later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the domains that linked to my site:

the sites that linked to my fiverr gig

 

Now, if Google just followed Majestic’s metrics to determine rank, I’d be happy with this.  The gig cost $21 and got me a couple links from sites with metrics that weren’t that bad.  Let’s take a look at the actual sites linking to me:

fiverr gig seo site example

 

So this is less than ideal.  The link that I purchased was for a “worker’s compensation lawyer in cherry hill,” but here it’s sitting next to blogs for testosterone injection therapy.  I don’t know what Google is going to make of this, but it is typical of what the other four websites looked like.

I will add that after 6 months, all of these links are listed in my search console, so Google did crawl them.

What about a Fiverr SEO gig offering 150 links? ($11)

supposedly panda-safe SEO links from fiverr

This one is 101% manual!

It’s Penguin and Panda safe!

What could possibly go wrong?

I put my order in and wait a few days.  I’m dreaming of the torrent of cases that my client is going to get from the $50-something dollars that I’ve spent on Fiverr SEO.

I get the report and check the sites in Majestic

 

 

fiverr seo gigs are not trustworthy

 

 

 

 

Again, by Majestic standards, it’s a mixed bag.  Most are sites with no backlink profile to speak of, but a few do have some numbers in the 20s, so who knows?  The one thing that I do know is that many of these links are also in my Search Console, so Google did crawl them.  My takeaway was that I added a lot of super-spam links to my site, and if anything was going to get it penalized, it would be this gig.

Ok, let’s see how buying some Google Search traffic affects the site

buying search traffic doesn't help rank

So this service is going to search for my keyword, go to my website, and send signals to Google that my search result is best.

This has got to work, and it’s only $5!

I order, a few days go by, and I see a massive spike in visits… as well as a massive 99.9% bounce rate.  This is definitely not going to be the signals that I was hoping to send to Google.

I contact the seller and share my concerns.  She responds with an offer to provide some other services to make up for the mess that she made of my analytics.

I strongly advise against buying search traffic.  These sellers do not care enough about your $5 or $10 gig to not cut corners and end up sending your bounce rate to the stratosphere and your dwell time to 00:00.  Just don’t do it.

I stumble upon something that moved the needle ($6)

a fiverr gig that may have helped with SEOI tried a few other $5 gigs and other than seeing them affect my numbers in Majestic, I didn’t really see any other effects.  I ordered one last gig from what seemed to be one of the most popular sellers and waited.  Within a few days of buying this gig, my site was suddenly ranking on page 3-4 for the “workers comp” keyword variations that I ordered.  I was quite shocked.

The sites that hosted the blogs looked spammy as hell (see right), but amazingly enough, there was a definite correlation between buying this gig and the site starting to rank locally for the keywords I was targeting.

Most of the links that I got from this gig are still listed in my Search Console and as I have checked a few of them, they all seem to be live still.

Flying high until March 21st.

drop on march 21st

 

 

 

 

We were ranking 17-25 for the keywords that we were targeting and had spent less than $100.  That all ended when Google did something on March 21st, 2017.  My impressions dropped to half of what they were, and as of June 14th, they haven’t gone back up.  Now, I do recall training a new employee to work with the template that the site was built with around this time, and we did end up removing some content.  It may have been a result of the changes that we made to the site, or it may have been the inevitable slap that Google decided to give us.  I did notice that around this time, we stopped ranking for keywords that were often used as anchor text, so it was likely related to that.

My final opinion on Fiverr SEO gigs.

The vast majority will have no positive impact on your search rank at all.

There are a few in there that may help you in the short term, but long term, it is not an effective source for you to rank a website.  Don’t waste your time or money.

 

 

What Is Majestic TF and CF? A Quick Explainer

What is Majestic TF and CF?  A Quick Explainer Of Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow.

TF stands for “Trust Flow.”  This number reflects the amount of traffic that comes through a link and measures the “trustworthiness” of a page.  CF stands for “Citation Flow.”  It reflects the amount of “link juice” that a page has and is able to pass onto another site through links.  Together, they are used to measure the impact of a link from a website, as well as the likelihood of a certain website ranking well for a specific keyword.

It does go a bit beyond this, so I recommend that you read on.

First, why have two different metrics?

As you probably know already, Google has played cat-and-mouse with people trying to game their algorithm for several years now.  One of the ways that they were successful in gaming the system was by using bots to spam the internet with links, through comment spam on blogs and tons of other methods.  They also caught onto the fact that some “authoritative” or “trustworthy” websites were linking to other websites, but few to no visitors ever clicked on these links, calling into question the value of linking to these sites in the first place.  The way Google saw it was that either the link was irrelevant or the site linking could have been possibly paid by the site receiving the links; in either case, it resulted in a less-than-optimal web experience for web users.

So what is the difference between Pagerank (PR) and TF & CF?

Pagerank used to be what Google used to rank a page.  It’s no longer a factor and is not worth really discussing anymore outside of a few contexts:

  1. If you’re talking about the history of SEO, it is definitely worth talking about PR
  2. If you’re trying to spot a BS SEO, any mention of PR or Pagerank should be a dead giveaway that he or she has no clue of how SEO works.

The idea of TF and CF is similar to what the old PR bar would tell you, with some big differences.  First, TF and CF are generated by a third party, Majestic, and have no data coming straight from Google, while Google provided us PR directly from their data.  Ultimately, there is a correlation between TF & CF and rank in the search engines, but it is by no means a direct, 100% correlation as PR used to be.

How can I use TF and CF to work on my SEO?

There are a few applications:

  • Competitive analysis – what linkbuilding has my competitor done to rank his website?
  • Link outreach – is this site even worth reaching out to for a link?
  • Keeping tabs on your SEO – is the company that you hired cutting corners or doing good work?
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

I do a fairly thorough walkthrough of how to use Majestic to see what links a competitor has acquired.  This guide should give you a good idea of whether your competitor has been doing something that you can replicate, or if you should just consider another method for driving links and traffic to your site.  A word of warning: you may see that other sites are spamming and getting traffic—you may be tempted to do the same thing, but mark my words.  Google. Will. Figure. It. Out.  When it does, you’re going to get slapped.

You can tell if they have been using spammy methods through one of the following:

  • There is a huge difference between the TF and the CF.  A TF that is 1/2 to 1/3 or lower of the CF says that they are getting links from “authoritative” sites, but those links are generating little traffic.  That is fishy and Google can easily tell that they are doing something manipulative.
  • You look at the backlinks going to your competitor and you can tell that they are from BS websites like this one:

how to use tf and cf for seo

LINK OUTREACH

This is the main thing that we use to do linkbuilding for our clients. There are many ways that you can use Majestic to find new opportunities to get links:

  • Find a website that is linking to an article on another site, then offer a better article for them to link to
  • See if a specific blog has enough authority to even bother reaching out
  • Find a website that is relevant to your industry that you did not know about.  This can allow you to establish a relationship in a place where you can gain some new followers.
KEEPING TABS ON YOUR SEO

There are companies and individuals out there that are dishonest (gasp!)

You may be paying a company to write blogs and establish an internet presence for your business, and what they are actually doing is spraying the internet with spam comments.  They only way that you would ever know would be to go to a site like Majestic or Ahrefs and take a look at your backlink profile.  If you see something that doesn’t look kosher, it will give you the opportunity to fire the SEO that you are working with, avoid any potential penalties down the road, avoid blowing even more money on something that is bound to damage your online presence, and move on to another company that is able to do the work that you need.

What you should be looking at:

  • The TF to CF ratio should not be any lower that 1/3 and even that is pushing it.  Ideally, you have a TF/CF of 1/2-2/1 and you are actually getting some traffic from the links that you built.  Links for the sake of links are not the way to go, necessarily.
  • The backlinks that you acquire should be from a variety of websites, with a bunch of differing anchor text (the underlined words that form the hyperlink to your site), and should be in different contexts.  They should not all be guest posts, blog comments, blogroll, footer, or any one type of link.  If they are, for example, 50 blog posts and nothing else, your SEO is getting lazy and you might be at risk for a penalty.
  • All in all, look for anything that doesn’t look natural.

TF and CF are metrics given by a proverbial “blind man feeling the elephant.”

As I discussed in another post, none of the SEO available paint a complete picture.  There is a lot going on in Google’s algorithm (supposedly, over 200+ items) and these tools are only measuring links, which are just one part of the equation.  As Google’s AI becomes even more powerful, it is likely that links will decrease in importance, at which point the entire SEO industry will be upended yet again, and tools like Majestic will need to change in order to continue to provide value.

Please share your thoughts below.  Did I miss any important uses for Majestic’s TF and CF?

 

 

 

 

Should Your SEO & PPC Reports Be No More Than 3 Numbers?

The case for simplified SEO and PPC reporting.

Does in-depth reporting provide any value in the first place?

I work primarily with professional services firms, the majority of whom are law firms.  These clients are highly intelligent, extremely well-educated, and generally speaking, highly successful in their fields.  If anyone outside of marketing is going to be able to easily understand a typical PPC report, it would be the accountants, lawyers, and adjusters that we work with, but surprisingly, most do not.  Even after the meeting or phone call that explains a CTR or a CPA, I can tell that the majority do not entirely understand what the reports are telling them and that we need a new way to report to our non-marketing clients.

“All kinds of lines and graphs”

I recall a first meeting with a small firm in Philadelphia that was leaving a well-known attorney marketing firm from out of state.  I asked about the results that he had been seeing, what was working and what wasn’t, and he answered that “they send me an email with all kinds of lines and graphs every month, but it is impossible to read.  I’ll send you a copy of some of them and you can tell me.”  The forwarded email was a standard report that clearly outlined the changes in traffic, time on page, bounce rate, and all of the typical metrics that we use to track web traffic.  The client was a 38 year-old graduate of the University of Pennsylvania that was very comfortable managing most aspects of his website, so it was not an issue of not being “tech-savvy” or uneducated.

He just didn’t get what the numbers meant in terms of his business and the time that his agency put into those reports was wasted.

Pick three numbers and put them front and center.

PPC and SEO reporting must be simplified to the point that a child can understand it.  At 12khz, we have started creating dashboards for clients using Google’s Data Studio. These dashboards prominently feature the numbers that mean the most to that client.  What does your client care about?

  • Number of phone calls?
  • Number of people visiting the website?
  • Time on page?

By focusing on a few numbers that the client clearly understands and that you have mutually agreed impact the business the most, your reporting goes from being “an email with a bunch of lines and graphs” to being a document that communicates the progress and results of the work that they are paying you to do.  In the case of analytics reporting for non-marketers, less is significantly more.  All of the typical detailed reporting should be placed on separate pages as to not overwhelm or distract our clients, but still remain available should they choose to delve more deeply into the work that you’ve done.

What are your thoughts?  Have you had any positive experiences with greatly simplifying your client reporting?  Am I totally wrong? Please share below.

 

6 Invaluable Tips For a Law Firm Starting SEO

As you begin the somewhat scary process of investing thousands of dollars into SEO for your website, here are 5 invaluable tips.

1. Make sure that you’ve gotten some references for the company that you hire.

While most attorneys are too busy to get on the phone and vouch for their SEO vendor, any reputable company will have developed relationships with a few that will be willing to answer a short email about whether they are happy with the service that they’ve received.  If your prospective SEO agency cannot deliver on this, pass.

2. Make sure that you will have a monthly scheduled call

You should be constantly in the loop with what is going on.  It will send the message to your agency that if there is any slack on their end, you will pick up on it quickly.  It is very easy for a company to deliver results off the bat, then start to spend less and less time on your account as time passes.  Avoid inattentive husband syndrome.

3. Retain control over everything

Your hosting should be in your name, as should your domain name registration, and you should have administrative access of the site through WordPress.  Unless you really don’t want to deal with it, there is no reason for your SEO company to have total control over anything. Should its delivery begin to falter, the divorce will be much more difficult if you do not have possession of the site or domain name.

4. Learn to use Google Analytics

Lynda.com has a course that will teach you all of the must-know basics.  I highly recommend you take it and monitor your analytics at least twice a month.  This will give you some insights into the SEO work that your agency is doing.

5. Learn to use the Google Search Console

Start tracking your ranking for specific keywords.  If analytics tells you what people do when they land on your site, Google Search Console will tell you how they found it in the first place.  While there are many third party tools that will tell you how you are doing on Google, none will be as effective as the tool that Google provides us due to the sheer amount of data that they have.  This will give you even more insights into the work that your company is doing.

6. Your SEO company should be creating content, building backlinks, and changing things around on your site.

If they are not writing blogs, shooting video, or posting some sort of content, that is a red flag.  If they are not building backlinks to your site, that is another red flag.  If they give you some story about doing “on-site optimization,” ask for specifics about title or header tags that were changed and the effect on rank that was reflected in the Search Console.  This will allow you to call bullshit on any company that is billing you and not actually doing anything.

If you are interested in learning about SEO in general, I highly recommend you check out our series on the process of SEO:

Phase 1 – Technical SEO

Phase 2 – Local SEO

Phase 3 – Content Strategy

If are ready to take the first steps towards hiring an agency to help rank your website, you can find out more about our SEO services here.

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

Break Down Your Competitors’ Online Strategy Using Just 2 Free Tools

What will it take to rank the site of a local attorney in local search?

Step 1: Find out who is ranking for the keywords we are targeting

We just launched a brand new site that has no backlinks.  As any good SEO knows, this site is going to need some links if it is ever going to rank for anything.  How better to develop a strategy than to see what has ranked some of the current top results?  But who are they?

For this, we’re going to go straight to Google.  We are going to check who is already ranking for the keywords that this client wishes to target:

  1. lawyers in mount holly
  2. workers compensation lawyers mount holly
  3. workers compensation lawyers south jersey

As you can tell, this client is a lawyer in Mount Holly, NJ that wishes to rank for terms related to worker’s compensation.

“Lawyers in Mount Holly”

After the local three-pack, we have a number of directory sites, followed by some local firms (several of whom are actually in the three pack).

Step 2: Uncover the linkbuilding strategies of the sites that are currently ranking well

We’re going to take these urls and put them into Majestic SEO.  Using the domain comparison tool, this is what we found:

Clearly, there is a reason that mr-law.com is outranking the rest.  While neither the citation flow or trust flow of the site is particularly high, the other sites have clearly done almost nothing in terms of SEO.  The takeaway from this is that even a modest SEO plan will rank our client for these keywords.

What has been mr-law.com’s approach to linkbuilding?

Tentative answer – Directory submissions

why is my competitor outranking me

As I scrolled through the site’s backlinks, they were mostly from low to medium-quality directories.  This is not the best approach to linkbuilding, but in the incredibly noncompetitive market that our client is competing in, this was enough to outrank everyone.

Don’t trust just one tool…

So this is what Majestic says.  What if it missed something?  We’re going to check the same site in Ahrefs.

ahrefs for law firm seo

linkbuilding law firm new jersey

Turns out that with the exception of a local real estate website, mr-law.com is relying almost exclusively on directory submissions to rank.  Outranking this website for “mount holly lawyers” should not be particularly difficult for our client, but let’s see what it will take to rank for the more competitive worker’s comp keywords.

What will it take to rank for worker’s comp-related keywords?

Step 1: Who is ranking for “mount holly worker’s comp lawyers?”

how to rank for workers comp lawyer in nj

We did not get a local 3-pack for the search “worker’s comp lawyers mount holly,” but we did get a smart snippet result (see image to the right).  We’ll have to keep an eye on what this site has done as far as local SEO and where it is ranking in the organic results.

results for seo analysis workers com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: What are these firms doing to build backlinks?

We now have the first local results (after skipping over the first three from Superlawyers and Findlaw).  Let’s throw these into Majestic and see what we find:

workers comp lawyers south jersey seo audit

Looking at these raw numbers, I don’t see a clear winner, so let’s check them in Ahrefs:

ahrefs seo analysis south jersey

What is clear from looking at the two tools is that www.brennerlawoffice.com clearly has many more backlinks than the others, and rupinskilaw.com is the largest site (in number of pages and amount of content), but www.injurylawyernj.com has links from the largest number of domains.  For this keyword, it will likely be more difficult to rank, but we already have three different websites ranking through three different approaches.  It would best serve us to look at the specific link sources for all three sites and form a strategy based on what we learn.

www.brennerlawoffice.com

law firm using directories to rank on Google

As I scroll down the list, I come to see that the site is ranking almost exclusively through links coming from directories, similar to the firms that we saw for the previous keyword.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach as long as the quality of the directories is high.  The problem with an approach like this is that it can be copied with a few hours of work.  A site that wishes to win the local SEO game needs to have links coming to it that a competitor cannot simply create a profile for.  This is not to say that we should forego creating profiles for the client, but this is not a throrough backlink strategy.

www.injurylawyernj.com

law firm in new jersey that finally started doing SEO

This is what it looks like when a firm wakes up and starts doing some linkbuilding.

As you can see, this firm just started doing some linkbuilding a few months ago, but let’s see what they have been up to.  Are they building links through guest posting?  Are they creating content?

more links from attorney directories to boost seo

Nope—more directory links.  In comparison to www.brennerlawoffices.com, it looks like they’ve submitted to more of these directories, but the other website’s directories duplicated many of those links, resulting in more overall from less submissions.  Between the two, it’s hard to say which one is more spammy; the one that has the lower quality links or the one that gives more links per submission.

I almost don’t feel like even looking at the third one, but I have to do my due diligence and see what they’ve done.

rupinskilaw.com

example of terrible backlinking

Spam.  Either this firm has a side hustle selling air jordans in Korea or they have paid a terrible “SEO guy.”  Amazingly, this was the firm that popped up in the local snippet.  WTH Google???

What I have learned

  1. It should not be particularly difficult to outrank these websites.  I’m shocked that any of them is even ranking well.
  2. Directory links continue to work for local SEO.  Although I am doubtful of this being a long-term ranking strategy, these firms are certainly generating business from this approach.  It is a matter of time before they call a firm like mine to handle the disavows once Google rolls out a new algorithm that smacks them for all of the directory links.
  3. Rupinskilaw.com is committing some egregious SEO sins, but they haven’t been penalized yet.  Honestly, I see backlink profiles like this all of the time and I have strong suspicions that Google’s propensity to penalize websites is greatly overstated.
7 Things You MUST Do Before Doing SEO for a Law Firm in New Jersey

These first tips are applicable regardless of where your practice is.

1. Claim Your Google My Business Account.south jersey seo company

This is your free business listing on Google.  Click here to claim it.

When you’ve searched for a service and saw the big box in the upper right hand side of the search engine results page (like the one to the right), that information was populated by Google My Business.  If you want your firm to pop up there, claim it and maintain it.  Post pictures, respond to reviews, stay active.  If you go to the Google My Business Dashboard, you’ll notice that there are analytics that let you know about people that called you, viewed your business, or asked for directions.  It’s good to keep tabs on this.

2. Get A Mobile-Friendly Website

If your site is not mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on cases.  If you’re really hurting financially, get a site from Wix.com or Squarespace.  If you’re ready for a big-boy website, make sure that it’s not only mobile-friendly, but that it also has tap-to-dial markup and tap-to-email.  It’s really simple to do and shouldn’t cost extra.

3. Set up Google Analytics and Search Console

Have your web designer set up your Google Analytics and Search Console.  Even if you have not idea how to read it, the data will be valuable in the future when your firm grows and you’re ready to hire a marketing agency.

4. You are a lawyer, not an attorney, law office, or law firm

When you start doing your SEO or Adwords, know that people look for “lawyers in ______.”  They are not searching for law offices, attorneys, or law firms, so if you focus on these terms in your online strategy, you’re going to chasing a smaller piece of the pie

These next few tips are insights that we have from working in the Greater Philadelphia region

5.  SEO and Adwords work wonders for B2C practices like PI, family law, or worker’s comp, but not so much for B2B practices such as real estate law or tax law.

Corporations are not really hiring tax attorneys that they find on Google, but the private individuals that work at those corporations do hire lawyers from Google.  If you cater to this population, SEO and Adwords will almost certainly be worth it.  On that note,

6. Adwords works and you should have someone do it for you.

If you have a good Adwords manager, you’ll get clients tomorrow.  If you’re curious about seeing some of the numbers that you’re likely to see if you DIY your Adwords account, check out this other post that we wrote about the topic. In a nutshell, Adwords can be hit-or-miss for a novice, but can be a major moneymaker if you do it right.  Following us on Facebook or signing up for our newsletter can help you get there if you really want to do it yourself.

7. People in South Jersey are including town names when they search for lawyers

This is good to know when doing your SEO and Adwords.  You will find that keywords targeting specific towns that you serve tend to be a little cheaper than the broad “worker’s compensation lawyer”-type keywords.  If you are focused on the town where your practice is located, we have found that ads running location extensions tend to extremely well, so be sure that they are set up

 

 

My Conflict When Asked About Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

“How did www.mylawfirmscompetitor.com get to #1 on Google?  I want you to do whatever they did!” – Every Law Firm I’ve Ever Spoken With

I feel conflicted whenever I get this question, which I get on a weekly, if not daily basis.  Inevitably, I take a look at said competitor’s backlink profile and it’s a sea of spam.  75,000 backlinks from nonsense websites (which are almost always private blog networks, or PBNs), comments spammed across sites in Russia and Southeast Asia, and enough Web 2.0 crap to fill a floor of servers.  I then realize that once again, I’m going to have the “well, they haven’t been penalized yet, but it’s just a matter of time” conversation.  From the client’s perspective, the competing firm is driving tens of thousands of dollars of billable hours while he is pumping out blog pieces and still paying referral fees to other firms.  Additionally, I have clients with whom I had the “it’s a matter of time” discussion three years ago and the competitor is still #1.

What do you tell them?

I have resolved to view my white hat vs. black hat conundrum through the lens of risk management.  I do not think that it is my job to tell a client that they should or should not take one approach vs. another; my duty is to clearly communicate the opportunities, risks, and costs of each approach and allow the client to make his or her own decisions.  I would prefer that our clients use white hat, best practices to rank their sites, but that does not always align with their risk tolerance and desire for fast results.  If a firm stands to drive tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in business over x amount of time, only to be penalized and move their site to a new domain and start over, they should be allowed to make that decision.

We do not do any blackhat SEO in-house.  It is more profitable for us to provide white hat solutions, but ultimately, our suggestions must fit the client.  My favorite analogy is to compare both practices to driving on a highway: if you do the speed limit, you’re less likely to be pulled over, have a fatal accident, or get a blowout.  If you decide to do 80 mph, you suddenly run all of these risks, but you will almost certainly get there more quickly (as long as none of those risks turn into actual problems).

In the end, it all depends on your appetite for risk.

What Law Firms Should Know Before Spending Money on SEO

Ranking highly for your area of practice may not be a panacea

Search rank for generic terms can be crucial for certain types of practice, but not all.

There are lawyers that focus on areas of practice that cater to clients with an immediate need, and others that offer services that may be of use down the road.  The customer journey—that is, the process from a client becoming familiar with your services to the point at which he or she actually hires you—differs greatly depending on the type of client you are serving.

If your clients have an immediate need for your services, ranking on page one for your area of practice could potentially make your practice.  It can be extremely beneficial for an attorneys to rank highly for keywords related to worker’s comp, DUI, family law, personal injury, and such time-sensitive areas of practice.  Generally speaking, potential clients that search for such terms are ready to hire an attorney and are not interested in deliberating.  Often, they don’t have time to ask around and interview five lawyers; those are the ones that are turning to Google to find representation fast.

If your clients are businesses, the process is more deliberative.  Businesses that need help with real estate law, tax law, or corporate law are not going to Google, searching “corporate lawyers” and hiring the firm occupying the #1 spot in the SERP.  If your goal as a tax lawyer is to build a practice by ranking #1 for “tax lawyer in baltimore,” you will be sorely disappointed once you reach your goal.

So if I do personal injury or criminal law, SEO can help me, but if I handle landlord-tenant matters, I shouldn’t bother?

That’s not what we’re saying.

If you happen to focus on an area of practice that focuses more on establishing long-term relationships vs. generating a revolving door of new clients, your goal should be thought leadership, not search rank for generic terms.

Let’s take the example of an attorney that handles landlord-tenant matters.  These are the organic results for “lawyer to evict tenant” from our office in Marlton, NJ:

is seo good for all law firms?

Generally speaking, it is going to take a lot of time and money for a local firm to outrank these national websites, and even if one were successful in doing so, it may not see the business come in.  For matters such as real estate, a landlord is not very likely to be in a rush and hire a lawyer because she was the first he could find. He is more likely to hire a lawyer because he trusts her, and thought leadership is how she generates that trust.

Let’s take the example of a different kind of search:

should law firms do seo

Buildium.com is one of the first organic results and it gives me the information that I am looking for.  Once I click on the link, I’ll come to learn that it is a property management software, which may be of interest to a landlord. This is thought leadership and SEO is one means of attaining it.  A lawyer that wishes to work with landlords in NJ should focus on creating content that would be of value to landlords in NJ and should focus all of his SEO efforts on providing (and promoting) valuable content to them.  If we were working with such a lawyer, our focus would be on ranking for searches like this one.

If your website is the one that businesses turn to for information, they are more likely to turn to you for your services

Businesses do not hire attorneys because they happened to rank highly; they hire them because they trust them

The aim of your SEO practices should be to create that trust.  Identify your business clients’ areas of interest, create content to serve them, and promote that content. If you have a practice that caters to businesses, do not focus myopically on search rank for generic terms.  Focus on being the authority that those businesses find when they search for information related to your services.  Answer questions that you know they might have.

What if my firm focuses on an area of practice that relies on a constant stream of new clients?

If this is the case, your SEO strategy should focus on your rank for focused, relevant long-tail keywords such as:

  • “Divorce lawyer in vineland nj”
  • “Lawyer for dog bite in bucks county”
  • “cherry hill lawyer for social security disability claims”

The best way to achieve high ranking for clients searching for these terms is the same as it is for the B2B lawyer, but the end goal is different.  You want to become a thought leader in order to drive SEO, which will help your pages rank highly, which in turn will get clients on the phone.  If your website becomes the authority for info on DUI defense in Pennsylvania, generating hundreds of 4-5 minute visits a day, you are going to rank well when someone is simply looking for a “DUI lawyer in Ridley.”

So what should my law firm’s SEO look like?

Your law firm should aim to be a thought leader.  If your firm caters to businesses, this will create trust that could lead to a long-term relationship.  If your firm caters to a revolving door of new clients, your online thought leadership will have aided you in ranking for the specific terms that you targeted in your local SEO efforts.  Finally, your SEO efforts should have an offline component.  You should be participating in conferences, encouraging people to follow you on social media, and telling everyone you know about your blog.

 

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Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Law Firm’s Digital Presence

By Frank Olivo, 12khz SEO | Web Design | PPC

It is remarkable how many law firms are missing out on basic, inexpensive solutions that could greatly help their online presence.  In this post, we are going to share a few of the most common missed opportunities that we see when we consult with new attorney clients.

You can put up a responsive, mobile-friendly website.

Amazingly enough, there are still attorneys that rely on outdated sites that are impossible to read on mobile devices.  Considering the plethora of cheap template solutions, there is really no reason for anyone to not have a mobile-optimized site.  Virtually every template created for Drupal and WordPress will allow you to have a responsive, mobile-friendly site, and both are designed for the non-technical person to be able to post blogs and change content.

You can put up a click-to-dial in the header.

More searches are being performed on mobile devices and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to get you on the phone.  Simply adding some code to the top of your site will enable visitors to tap your phone number in order to call you.

You can optimize your website  for speed.

Go to Google’s Pagespeed Insights and type in your url.  If your site is like the typical site that we encounter, it has a lot of room for improvement in speed.  People don’t want to wait for your site to load on their devices—they’re more likely to simply return to the search engine results and click on another result.  There are a number of plugins out there that can help you to speed up your site.

You can claim your Google My Business.

It takes you five minutes and allows you to control the snippets about your practice that appear in the big box in the search results.  There is no reason to not have taken care of this already.  Go ahead and Google your practice; you’ll see what we’re referring to.  You can pick what images people see, enable searchers to see a street view of your office, interact with clients that leave reviews, even display Avvo, Facebook, or Superlawyer reviews.  Having control over this service will help you to guide your online presence and increase the likelihood that you show up in results for local searches.

You can start asking for reviews from your successful cases.

When you have won a case, make a point of asking your client to give you a review on Avvo and/or Google.  People look at these reviews, and if they are on the fence about hiring you, it could be the factor that tips them towards hiring you.

We don’t want to overwhelm you with a long “to-do” list.  We do strongly encourage you to follow through on our advice, and hope that your practice continues to grow as you serve more and more of your clients.

The 2017 Online Marketing Checklist For Small Businesses
A quick checklist for any small business that doesn’t know how to get found online.

1. Start with Google My Business

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Google My Business is the service that Google allows business owners to create or change a business listing on the search engine.  It allows you to add pictures, edit the hours that you are open, your address, and any number of important things.  This will also display your business on Google Maps, which could be helpful for people that are using that app to get to your location.  If you have not done so yet, log in and claim your business.

 

2. Spy on the competition

how-to-spy-on-peopleSearch for your services on Google and see who comes up in the top spots; it’s not that hard to reverse-engineer how they got there in the first place. Here we’ll share a few tools that will be helpful in getting you started, along with our own experiences with each one.

Links from other sites are one of the main factors in getting a website to rank highly on Google.  If you’re interested in finding out who is backlinking to your competitors, we find that Ahrefs and Majestic do the best job of indexing backlinks to websites.  Both will prove  valuable in finding sites that would be willing to link to you too.

If you’re interested in seeing what content seems to be doing well on social media, Buzzsumo or Ninjareach can both help you.  These tools will let you know what content is getting shared on social media,which can be helpful in deciding what content your site should be creating.  As with the backlink tools, it is often better to use more than one tool since no tool is going to get 100% of the links or social media shares out there.

Lastly, is the competition doing paid search?  Spyfu does an excellent job of indexing ads that competitors are running, but be warned: the “estimated ad budgets” that the site displays are way off.

3. Do social media the right way

fb_icon_325x325Academic studies have shown that social media works best for brands that use it to have a dialogue with customers.  You should be using it to listen to what customers are saying and have a discussion with them.  Share things that interest them.  Like their posts.  If you are limited in the time that you can spend on social media, pick one channel and do it right.  Simply being on a social media platform will do nothing for you if you are not interacting with customers in an authentic, meaningful way.

Social media advertising can work for many niches, but note that blatant social media ads tend to do very poorly.  The sort of “ads” that do well on social media are the ones that talk about topics of interest that relate to your business.

“What do you mean, topics of interest?

A restaurant wishing to boost its Facebook presence would do better by promoting a post on “how to prepare one of their delicious appetizers” than by promoting a “reserve your table now!” post.  Such content is much more likely to get noticed—and maybe even shared—by customers.  It also shows what your brand is about; sharing a recipe shows that the restaurant is about getting people to eat good food, while a “come visit us today” post could be interpreted as your brand just caring about getting people in the door.

 4. Do display ads the Right Way

display-ads-246x300Are you trying to build awareness of your brand?  Display ads can help with that. 

Are you trying to get people that visited your site to come back and possibly buy something this time?  They can help with that too.

Are you trying to drive people that have never heard of your brand to come to your site and make a purchase?  You may or may not get that with display ads.

A remarkably low percentage of people click on display ads.  Studies have shown that they work most effectively when used to get visitors to return to a site when they have demonstrated interest in a product (otherwise known as retargeting) or when a brand is trying to create some recognition for itself. Either way, it’s important that you use your display ads for what they do best.

5. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly

viewportMore people are searching on mobile phones than desktops.  As Google penalizes websites that are not mobile-friendly and it’s a pain to visit a non mobile-optimized website, you are going to lose out on business if you don’t have one.

Another thing that we see websites ignore is the mobile speed.  Check your site on PageSpeed Insights. This will tell you if your site is painfully slow on mobile and how to fix it.  If your site isn’t loading in under 2 seconds, you’re probably missing out on business.

5. Look into paid search

imagesIf you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to execute a solid SEO plan, paid search may be your ticket.  If you are in an industry that people search for online, paid search will probably be attract customers.

The costs can vary significantly depending on how competitive a keyword is, but Google allows us to get an idea of what keywords should cost with its Keyword Planner Tool. This tool will let you know how many people are searching for words related to your business and how much it would cost for you to reach them.

*pro tip: If you decide to try a paid search campaign, be sure to run at least two ads at a time to see which one draws more customers,  swapping out the underperformer.