Every day as an SEO brobot, I swim around in all types of online data. When I say all types, I’m not kidding. One website alone provides hundreds of thousands of individual data points, if not more. Needless to say, sometimes it can be very overwhelming. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with each and every one (yet), but I do want to touch one specific metric that comes up in a lot of conversations: bounce rate.
At face value, this term sounds pretty goofy when you consider that it refers to something web-based, something fairly technical. The first time I heard the phrase “bounce rate” I instantly started thinking about one of those air filled castles and exactly how many kids could bounce at once, that would equal the bounce rate. Right? I was way wrong.
So what is bounce rate, exactly?
According to Google, “bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits compared to visitors who view more than one page of a website.” So for example, let’s say a potential client visits your site, views only your home page and then leaves your site completely. Your bounce rate would be 100% if that were the only visitor to your site. Now let’s imagine that the same visitor views your site but reads your home page and your contact page before leaving the site completely, your bounce rate would be 0%. The second scenario would be described as an exit, meaning your contact page would have an exit rate of 100%.
For you mathematicians out there, here is the equation for determining bounce rate:
So now that we have a better understanding of what counts as a bounce, we need to ask how this affects your website, your bottom line, or if it’s even something that needs your attention. Without question, there is a catch all answer for the age-old question of “what is the perfect bounce rate?” I know that may be crushing for some, but it’s just the facts. For example, websites that are built to sell products would most certainly have a different average bounce rate than a website that only existed to provide a customer simple contact information. Granted, this is only true if the e-commerce site was successfully converting customers.
Understanding bounce rate, specifically for your website, is an important first step in understanding how your site is performing. It’s critical to remember that there is never a universal, perfect bounce rate, but more of a desirable range for you and your site. In upcoming posts, we will be discussing ways to determine your perfect bounce rate and how to measure your website’s user engagement.
Knowing exactly where to go and what to do to verify your Google +Local listing can be confusing and frustrating for small business owners. The SEO team at Foster Web Marketing has put together an easy step by step process of submitting and verifying a Google +Local listing.
First, search for your business in Google maps, if a listing appears click the listing you want, and then click “more info.” If your business does not appear skip to #3.
You will be sent to the Google +Local page for the business and you can edit and claim your business by clicking the “Manage this page” button and skip to #6.
You will be prompted to enter your business’s main phone number to see if Google Maps already has some information about your business. It is important to use your local phone number and not an 800 or 866 number.
If you have already tried to claim your listing before you will see the option below. Click Verify ownership and skip to #8.
You’ll now be able to edit any existing information and add new details. The more details the better for your Google +Local page, so fill out the form with as much information as possible including your website, email, a quality description (tip: don’t use your brand name, you only have 200 characters and visitors already know what your business name from the title), up to 5 relevant categories, business hours, photos and Youtube videos.
You will be asked to verify via phone or postcard. The postcard takes about 2 weeks to arrive your business’ address and often is easy to miss, so we would recommend phone verification if possible.
Once you click verify, you will quickly receive a call from Google with a PIN. If you choose verification by PIN you will have to wait 2-3 weeks for the PIN and come back to the Google +Local dashboard then to verify. Enter your PIN to verify and you now have a verified Google +Local listing. Any changes you made to your business listing will take affect after a few days.
Tip: if you update your brand name, phone number or address this will cause you to have to verify the listing again. If you update the address Google will force you to verify via phone and if you update the phone you will have to verify via PIN card. So, get it right the first time to avoid a headache and delays!
If you have issues with this process or don’t have the time to make sure you have a strong local presence (tip: don’t forget that Google isn’t the only search engine with local listings, don’t forget about Yahoo! and Bing); Foster Web Marketing offers local services and much more with our SEO packages. Call us at 888.886.0939 or fill out a contact us form for pricing and to see what else we can do to improve your local presence.
The Panda continues to come back; and he’s madder and meaner than ever!
Google’s original Panda update—back in February 2011—crippled many poorly designed online legal marketing efforts. Since then, the search engine giant has continued to release updates of the Panda that have struck fear in many SEOs and marketing professionals.
What’s the point of the Panda?
The point is to downgrade sites that offer low quality content. Google is in business to connect searchers with relevant information. To the degree that a Google link delivers a crummy page is the degree to which Google loses its competitive edge. So the company really wants you to create extremely valuable, useful, relevant content… and it even has compiled a 23-point litmus test that your content must pass to be considered “above the bar” content.
Don’t overreact to the Panda—stay calm!
It would be all too easy to start to “do something, anything!” in response to Google’s changes. But take a breath. Here are some principles to keep in mind:
Don’t suddenly uproot your domain or “start over” with your site for no reason. You need to be scientific about what changes to do, in what order, to extract the most benefit from the least effort;
The Google game is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. One day—or even a few weeks—in the so-called “doghouse” in the search engine rankings does not necessarily mean that your SEO strategy isn’t working;
Google isn’t the only game in town. There are diverse ways to market your law practice online. The team at Foster Web Marketing can help you get clear on your best choices and help you move forward with your strategy.
Focus on building a quality user experience. Make a website so simple to use that even an alien would understand what to do on your website and when.
The team at Foster Legal Marketing can help you with that. Call us now at 888-886-0939 for personalized assistance.
You just want a simple way to market your law firm on the web and be done with it.
You want to get back to doing what you know how to do and love to do (i.e. practice law and take care of your clients).
But Google seems to love changing the rules. If you’ve spent any time researching search engine optimization (SEO) trends, you’ve no doubt heard about the Google Panda update. To refresh your memory, the Panda was a much-ballyhooed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) update to Google’s search algorithm.
The Panda created a basket of challenges for lawyers marketing services online.
It also created intriguing opportunities!
Google Plus discussion results may have a powerful—even profound—impact on Google rankings. If a topic of interest gets actively discussed on Google Plus, that topic may show up in the Google search results page. Searchers can then read/participate in the discussion without ever leaving the results page!
So is this good news, bad news, or no news for your online legal marketing effort?
The answer depends.
It depends on how you want to incorporate Google Plus into the mix of your online strategy. It depends on what keywords you’re competing to win. It depends on what kind of process you want to take potential clients through. It depends on a lot, in other words.
How do you know what to focus on, and what you can ignore?
You make your money by putting in billable hours and building the business of your firm. The more time and energy you exhaust researching nuances of Google’s latest algorithm changes, the less time and energy you’ll have to build your practice and serve those who need your services.
Don’t try to “do it all yourself.”
Find a competent, experienced, tech-savvy team to organize your marketing strategy and get you ranking in Google the right way to attract the right kinds of clients to grow your business.
Connect with the online legal marketing and SEO team at Foster Web Marketing. Call 888-886-0939 today for a free consultation.
Whether you are launching a new website or thinking about changing domain names, there are some key factors you should take into consideration. Search engines, branding, long-term effects, and domain history should all be taken into account when selecting a domain name for your law firm’s website.
An often-debated topic is the value of including keywords in your domain name. While having an exact match domain has been shown to be beneficial for search engine results in the past, it does not always mean high conversion and the benefits are limited to that one exact match term. Keyword-centric domains like “caraccidentlawyeratlanta.com” are more closely associated with short-term results and lend a generic connotation to the user. As we’ve learned—or as Google has thrown in our faces—making decisions for your website based on SEO trends, or for the purpose of obtaining immediate results is not always the best course of action. It leaves you vulnerable when the next wave of search algorithm changes occurs. With the recent Google Penguin Update, I feel we’ll hear more about exact match domain names taking a hit due to a combination of over-optimization and repetitive anchor text where the website name is used as the anchor text.
Your website is an obvious extension of your business; therefore, it should effectively reflect your brand. Building brand value through your domain name is a long-term investment, but promoting your brand in your domain name increases your brand’s visibility to the search engines which can be beneficial for long term success—think Amazon.com or eBay. While reading up on the topic among current industry blogs, I came across a gem in a post on seo-theory.com that brought on an “I couldn’t have said it better myself” moment:
If you think of your Website as a business, you tend to pay more attention to things like traffic, conversions, brand value, visitor/user experience, and long-term prospects for revenue. If you think of your Website as an asset, possibly one to be flipped, you’re not really motivated to create much value there.
Along with building brand value, some additional factors to consider when thinking about the long-term effects of selecting your domain are name recognition, length, and content structure of the domain name itself. Although these factors may have little effect on your website’s overall success, creating a user-friendly URL that is easy to remember can help direct traffic numbers. I really liked some of Jeff Korhan’s suggestions regarding “The Crowded Bar Test,” which emphasize the importance of being memorable. Your domain doesn’t have to consist of only one word to be easily remembered, but trying to stuff in keywords, hyphens, numbers, or using an extension other than .com can lead to an awkward and lengthy combination. Many web users will not be too gung-ho about typing in a complex URL, or will easily mess up…which could easily lead them to one of your competitor’s sites.
There are a lot of domains for sale out there. If you’re considering purchasing an existing domain, make sure to do your research. Find out when the domain was created. Since older domains tend to have a leg up in the search engines, an older domain shouldn’t be immediately rejected. Also, a domain’s negative history can follow it, so make sure there aren’t past search engine penalties that were caused by the previous owners. Tools like WhoIs and Google Banned Checker can help you determine the history of a prospective domain.
Do you need help selecting the best domain name for your attorney website? Contact the law firm marketing and SEO specialists at Foster Web Marketing today by calling 888.886.0939.
Have you been spamming Google? If so, you might get punished.
Google released its latest algorithm update on April 24th, which is designed with a specific goal in mind—to target websites that are violating Google’s policies. Not playing by Google’s rules might not be a crime, but you better believe there is a stiff penalty for it. If Google feels that you are engaging in spam, say goodbye to a lot of your website traffic.
A little less than a week ago, Google rolled out a change to its algorithm, which has been termed the Penguin Update. Originally, the update was referred to as the over-optimization penalty, but it goes well beyond that. In addition to targeting websites that practice questionable search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, such as keyword stuffing and hidden text, Google is also looking at the links that are pointing to a website.
Links to Avoid
The links you should be avoiding haven’t changed all too much following the Penguin Update, but they are worth mentioning. Below is a short list of links to stay far away from:
Junky directories: In the past, online directories were the way to go to get links fast—it didn’t matter if the directories were questionable. Not anymore. However, industry-specific and other relevant directories are still okay, such as Nolo, Justia and Avvo.
Article marketing websites: If you are still submitting articles to article marketing websites, it is time to stop. That technique no longer works.
Link networks: Link networks are also a thing of the past and should be avoided. Don’t get involved in a link network.
“Spammy” websites: Google is paying attention to what websites are linking to yours. Don’t position yourself with websites that Google considers to be spammers. You will be guilty based on association.
Basically, Google wants your links to be natural and to make sense. If it appears that you are trying to manipulate the system by using artificial links, your website could be hurt.
Your Relationship With Google
What you have to always remember about Google is that they don’t owe you anything. They are a business, just like your firm, and including you in their index is a privilege. It is not your right to be included. So, be sure to play by Google’s rules.
If you are looking for help with Web marketing, contact one of our SEO experts today at 888.886.0939. We focus on attorney search engine marketing and can help you.
Does anyone out there remember Google Buzz? It was Google’s first attempt to compete in the social media world, launched in February of 2010 and it was shut down completely about 18 months later. It aimed to integrate social media with Gmail, which sparked a privacy concern for users. Just for the record, that is 6 years after Facebook launched and 4 years after Twitter launched. To say that Google missed the boat on social media is fair to say.
But being the tech behemoth they are, Google has quite a bit at stake in a market they had yet to penetrate. Bing, who continues to claw away at the search market share, signed a deal with Facebook in October 2010 that would allow them to not only use social cues in search results but to actually include your friends faces in search results. Facebook has over 800 million users and is the most active social media site in the world. This social data could make their search results better than Google’s which had relied more heavily on backlink data. Here is an example of social results in Bing:
Facebook has a direct impact on Bing searches and greatly impacts click-through rates.
You can see in this example of a Bing search result just how important relevant social information can be. These are 3 people that I know personally that have endorsed this page. Of course I am going to click that result rather than another (possibly more relevant and higher ranking result) because I recognize those faces and trust those people.
To maintain search dominance, Google absolutely had to go social. For them, it made sense to create their own network for a few reasons, not the least of which is that they couldn’t get the Facebook data because of the Bing deal. So in the summer of 2011, Google finally launched their long-anticipated rival to Facebook…Google+. Initially, it was an invitation-only service but despite this major limitation, the site had 10 million users in the first two weeks. By the end of 2011, it had over 90 million users.
Because many early adopters were marketers, there was a demand for business pages, which did not launch until November. Google was heavily criticized for their launchsince they couldn’t match the demand for accounts and penalized early users for creating business pages with their personal profiles. Most marketers didn’t care about using the network for personal use, they wanted an early start on the SEO benefit that the site would inevitably provide at some point.
Where are we now?
Google+ has over 90 million users but it in unclear how many of them are “active”.
Google+ connects all layers of Google products, from Gmail to YouTube, Picasa and Search.
Google+ has been integrated in Google search results.
President Obama used a Google Hangout to host a town hall meeting.
More than 70% of Google+ users are male and 35% of them are between the ages of 25-34.
Features of Google+
The only way that Google+ had a chance to compete against Facebook and Twitter was to offer some new features. In fact, they have offered a slew of new features that have been well received and could usher social media into the next generation.
On Facebook and Twitter, you can filter incoming messages to check the statuses of friends, family or colleagues. This is a basic feature of all social networks now but Google+ introduced us to Circles, which allow users to filter outgoing information to specific groups of people.
To build a circle, you simply drag your contacts into one or more circles. When you share a post, photo or video, you have the option to share with one or more of these groups or make it public. As many recent college graduates know, social media can create problems when applying for jobs. This feature ensures that information is only shared with people that you want to see it. But make sure you keep your circles up to date!
Google already had instant message and video chatting that could be used through Gmail but they took that to a new level with Google+ Hangouts. Rather than just video chat with one person, you can video chat with up to 10 people and an unlimited number of people can listen and watch. President Obama famously took advantage of this feature to hold a town hall meeting on January 30, 2012. Businesses are starting to take advantage of this free tool also.
Google+ Hangouts makes it very easy to hold a video conference, share screen and watch YouTube videos. You can even access Hangouts on their mobile apps. This feature, although it may sound similar to services like GoToMeeting, could eventually wipe out its competitor’s because it is entirely free!
To their credit, Google understood that they needed to be mobile from the beginning. They have an easy-to-use mobile website as well as more robust mobile apps for Android and iOS.
This is a mobile feature very similar to text messaging or SMS. But just like Hangouts, they have made this much cooler than the average text message. You can communicate with up to 50 people at once if they opt to receive your messages. You can select by circle or just by typing someone’s name into the search bar and you can easily start a mobile Hangout right from a message.
Still in it’s infancy, Google+ Direct Connect enables qualified websites to allow users to quickly access their Google+ page via Google Search. Test it out by typing “+youtube” into the Google search bar. It will take you directly to the YouTube Google+ page. You can learn more about Direct Connect here.
Integration of Google Services
Google has made it abundantly clear that they want Google+ to be the glue that holds together your Google Accounts. In the past, users have been able to create separate YouTube, Gmail and Picasa accounts. Google wants you to use one login to access all of these services and all the rest…Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Docs and Google Places. And did I mention Google Maps, Google Books, Google Reader,Google Earth, Google News, Blogger, Google Voice and Google Translate. They want to own your web experience in the way that Apple or Windows owns your desktop experience. Increasingly, each of these services is taking advantage of the relationships you have in Google+ to enhance their capabilities.
And a lot more…
While we covered most of the really important features, Google+ does a lot more. For example, it has become a vibrant community for photographers because of the integration with Picasa and the built-in photo editing tools. It’s also been great for businesses because of the obvious benefits of “Search Plus Your World”. They also have a very cool selection of online games, a trending feature similar to Twitter and an integrated YouTube search and video playing platform.
Business Pages: Facebook vs. Google+
Okay, you have one hour to spend today on social media for your business. Should you work on your existing Facebook page that already has a few hundred fans or get to work building that Google+ page?
If only it were so easy. Between Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other niche sites likeAvvo, there is no way you have time to manage them all. Here is what we know for sure: Google+ pages are going to impact search results. If it means a little less time on Facebook, that’s okay. Remember that for any social network, your friends, fans or followers will see your information in their feed, not on your page. Spend time creating thoughtful, interesting posts that link to quality information. Optimizing your brand page is a good idea for branded searches but for many businesses, social media is a better tool for marketing to existing clients.
In the dark ages of search, there was only one ranking factor: keywords. And in the early years of social media, it held almost no clout for businesses. Oh, how things have changed! While keywords are still a relevant factor in search rankings, Google, Bing and other search engines measure and employ a number of metrics to determine where, when and how your website ranks. Here are just a few:
Incoming links from relevant and credible sites
Quality and quantity of content
Page load speed
Accessibility and cleanliness of code
And the kicker…
Now keep in mind that rankings are personalized for every individual searcher. There are a number of other factors that are involved in ranking that have nothing to do with your website, but rather the data that Google and Bing can gather about individuals on the web:
Where are you? A search for [rehab facility] in Topeka, Kansas might return search results for celebrity gossip websites while the same search in Los Angeles might provide results for physical locations and directions.
What device are you using? Searching for [pizza] on a mobile device should point you to nearby pizza restaurants while the same search on a desktop
What’s trending? Breaking news completely changes search results. If you search for [presidential election results] in early November of an election year, the results will be dramatically different than in April of a non-election year.
Who are you? Search engines collect a massive amount of information about individuals as they search the web. If you are logged into a Google account (think Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Analytics, etc.) while searching and surfing, Google can collect a ton of information about your habits and activities. They use this to deliver results that they feel are the most relevant to you.
What have you been up to? Even if you don’t have a Google account, they can still follow you around the web. Search engines attach cookies (small files that can collect data) to your browserto find out more about you. They can even track your computer. There is no escaping it. Google will use your previous search history to tailor results just for you.
Do you feel that your privacy is being invaded? You aren’t alone. But as a user of Google’s services and the Internet in general, you agree to this. There are, however, two very important benefits to this. The first is that, for the most part, you get better search results and second is that you can have access to some of this data to make your own web marketing better.
Now that you understand how serious Google is about delivering the best possible search results. And THIS is where social media, specifically Google+, comes in.
Can you imagine how much information is shared on social media websites everyday? And why do people share that information? Because it’s interesting, it’scontroversial, it’s topical, etc. And it’s incredibly valuable to a search engine that is personalizing search results. There is hardly anything more personal than social media.
To make a long story very short, Google would love to have all the data Facebook and Twitter have. But they have a deal with Bing and rather than enter a bidding war,Google has chosen to create their own social network, Google+. Now Google can still understand a few things about posts shared on Facebook and Twitter because there are so many ways to share things. Activity that happens behind the closed doors of Facebook.com and Twitter.com is hard to track. But now that most websites have Facebook “Like” buttons and Twitter “Tweet” buttons, Google can track whether or not users are endorsing thosepages.
All of these leads up to Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” which heavily integrates social cues into your search results if you are logged into a Google account.
You can see in the above examples that there are 160 pages that Tom Foster’s Google+ friends have interacted with, and 19 million other results. Google will let you know the difference between a social result and normal result by putting an icon to the left of the result as displayed below.
You can also turn off “Search Plus Your World” by selecting the globe in the top right of a search results page but it is on by default.
Google is placing a HUGE emphasis on this feature, to the point that users may need to turn the feature to get useful results. Here is Google’s official video on Search Plus Your World. Take it with a grain of salt because it ain’t that cool yet!
Search and social have officially collided. Don’t get left behind.
At Foster Web Marketing, we obviously believe that web marketing works. So much so that we included it in the name of the company and have built our entire business on it. Marketers love using the web to reach clients because the results are tangible and measurable. But there is an important marketing tool that you absolutely cannot overlook that will probably win you the most clients and cases: YOU.
In the months, leading up to the NFL Combine, sports fans are subjected to a flurry of largley meaningless statistics: 40 yard dash times, verticals, bench presses, etc. But you will constantly hear analysts talking about “intangibles” like character, toughness and leadership because they outweigh physical traits by a huge amount. Your law firm is the same. YOU are the most important marketing tool that you have. It doesn’t matter where you went to law school, how many years you’ve been practicing or how many associations you belong to. Web marketing can drive web traffic and leads but no tool is as powerful as your personality to convert and create referrals.
Not everyone is Dave Frees. But even if you are introverted and don’t enjoy the spotlight, you still possess powerful marketing tools. Every interaction with a potential client or current client contributes to a perception of you as a person and a lawyer. Treating people with genuine (emphasis on genuine) kindness and empathy during stressful times reflects well on you and your firm. And it’s great marketing.
We often recommend that people read Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement where he breaks down the traits of successful people. Success is not only defined as financial gain and Hill does an excellent job explaining how every action you take and word you speak contributes to the success or failure of the goals you’ve set for yourself. Its a great read for anyone, not just lawyers or marketers but its vital to understand just how important this is to your success.
So keep at your web marketing. This doesn’t mean content and link building aren’t important but it does mean that you need to hone in on the most powerful marketing tool. And it’s right at your fingertips.
Here is “everything you need to know about image optimization for lawyers” condensed into just a few hundred words. Let’s start at the very beginning. You need images on your site. In the same way video engages web visitors, so do images. And in the same way videos must be optimized properly to give you any kind of juice in the eyes of Google, so too must your images be optimized. If you don’t believe that images are important to SEO, just head over to Google.
Clearly, Google is big on image search.
Google is very deliberate about their user interface. If images is the second tab on a SERP (search engine result page), then you can bet that images are important to them. With that established, let’s dig into how to use images on your attorney website to improve rankings.
It all starts with the file. Whether you have a graphic from iStockphoto or a photo that you’ve taken yourself, you will want to change the file name and maybe even the file type. We recommend working with JPEG files because they are easily recognized by all browsers. Here are examples of default files names that are NOT helpful for SEO:
Note: These are real file names. You will come across file names like this. Before you do anything else, change the file name with your searchers in mind. The file name of the screenshot above is “image-seo-for-lawyers.jpg”. If you are a car accident lawyer in Topeka, Kansas posting a stock image of a car accident, an appropriate file name might be “topeka-kansas-car-accident-lawyer.jpg”. As discussed in this webmaster video with Matt Cutts, you want to use hyphens when separating words in a URL or file name rather than underscores. Hyphens, in the eyes of Google, indicate separate words while underscores do not.
The next step is re-sizing your image for the web. If you are using a photo that you have taken on a digital camera that is 8 mega-pixels, you absolutely want to re-size it before you upload it into your image library. That is a huge file that will slow down your page load time (a big no-no for SEO). You can do this in Photoshop and many other desktop programs but I like Picnik.com when I just need to re-size and not edit. Don’t worry about the exact size of the image, just try to keep the file at something reasonable, like 100kb. Once the file is uploaded, you can alter the size for styling purposes but the file itself remains the same size.
Once uploaded, you will need to surround your image with descriptive text to make sure the search engines understand what it is. This starts with your alt text. Here are some examples, taken directly from Google:
Not so good: <img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”"/>
Better: <img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”puppy”/>
Best: <img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”Dalmatian puppy playing fetch”>
To be avoided: <img src=”puppy.jpg” alt=”puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food”/>
You don’t need to dig into the code of your site to add alt text. Every content management system allows you to do this when you upload the image. Here is what it looks like in WordPress:
Make sure every image (including file name, alt text, etc.) is relevant to the page you put it on. A stock photo of a lawyer optimized for car accidents should not also be used for medical malpractice. If you want to use the same image twice, start the process from the beginning.
Style your images on the page so that the text wraps nicely around them and keep them above the fold.
Build links to images and pages with images on them.
For more information on best practices for image SEO, check out Google’s official guidelines. Images are content just like text and video. They can help you rank better in search and hurt you if not done properly. One more thing to add to your list but an important one if you want to stay ahead of the curve!