Google – The Sole Practitioners’ New Best Friend
This article is a synopsis of an hour long talk given by Sole Practitioner, Paul Hajek of Clutton Cox to the Bristol Sole Practitioners group on Thursday 28th January.
When Harold MacMillan was asked what was the greatest challenge for a statesman he replied “Events, dear boy, events”.
Well, as Sole Practitioners we seem always to be dealing with events. I remember writing a response paper in 1993 on behalf of the Bristol Sole Practitioners’ Group in response to “The Cost of Default”. More recently, we have had to deal with fundamental changes in Legal Aid, Professional Indemnity, Referral Fees and now the Legal Services Act.
Here is a leaflet from Quality Solicitors which has a banner headline;
If “Tesco Law wins will the last lawyer to leave Britain please turn out the lights”.
But, how about some good news on referrals. This week on Monday, I had 48 referrals; on Tuesday I had 44 referrals and yesterday I had 52. At this rate, excluding weekends, I will have some 10,000 referrals this year. ALL these referrals were FREE and courtesy of Google and the Internet
The Topics which I will cover
1. Google, Websites and Internet Marketing
2. Blogging – and why you should start straight away
3. Twitter: How you can build your brand
Before Google can refer potential clients to you, you need a website or a blog. Your website should form the HUB of all your marketing efforts, both on and offline. Your website should be seen as the start of the process and not the end of the process. Your website is a dynamic tool to attract existing and potentially new clients.
Your mission is to get found by Google. The quality of the content on your website is crucial. Google loves content new and refreshed. The new world is now governed by the maxim “CONTENT IS KING”. The internet has subtly changed the rules of marketing so that it is not so much, who you know, but more, who knows you.
There are literally millions of websites in existence. Yours will not be unique or ground breaking. Do not get hung up on design and look. You need a 7 -10 page site to start the ball rolling. You can always add to it later and change the design if you need to. You need a straight forward “Content Management System (CMS) provided by your website company to allow you to update your site whenever you want.
1. CREATE Remarkable Content
2. OPTIMISE your content for search engines (SEO) and other audiences
3. PROMOTE your remarkable content in social media, e-mail marketing and other channels
Your mission should you decide to accept it is to lead people to your website, and convert that traffic into clients
SEO-Search Engine Optimisation
You will not be able to embark on the creation of a new website or a revision of your existing website without encountering the term SEO or SEM- Search Engine Marketing. Google looks for relevance when it trawls websites for answers to questions that people type in to its search engine. Google is particularly keen to get local relevance. You can put your site forward for free to Google Local.
You will have seen this in practice if you type in a localised question to Google and seen the Google Map and a list of firms down the side of the map. You should also encourage your client to give you a testimonial on Google Local, as those testimonials will give you the edge over a site with no such referrals.
Organic or Paid Links
The so called organic links are the ones you find on the left hand side of the page, normally underneath a couple of paid links. Other paid links are shown on the right hand side.
I have not gone down the paid link or AdWords as it is called and try to produce remarkable content to vie for high spots on the organic left hand side of the page. AdWords can be very expensive as you will pay for any click through to your website. It is possible to limit your expenditure by putting a cap on your monthly expenditure.
You should also ensure that your new site has the codes included from Google Analytics. This is another powerful and free tool from Google. It will allow you to check how many people have visited your site, which were the most popular pages and which page they exited on.
Blogging – Why you need to start straight away
I have mentioned before that moving up the rankings on Google takes time. The quickest route to success is by way of a blog, or web log for its longer name. By creating blogs on your areas of specialisms, using keywords and phrases you will be found a lot sooner by Google.
There will be little activity when you first start. If Google finds you within one or two months you will be doing well. Once found Google will revisit your website more regularly. The more content I add the more frequent Google’s robots crawls my site. I try to blog every 3-4 days or 8 times a month, sometimes more sometimes fewer
You will also demonstrate to your existing and potential clients your area of expertise. Every blog post you make is another page added to your website, so your basic site can grow very quickly. You can also send internal links to other parts of your website for other keywords or phrases
If you in turn send your blogs to other websites, free or paid for, these will be indexed by Google and provide links back to your website. Every link is a vote for your website in Google’s eyes. These links plus size of your site comprise your Google page Ranking score on a 1-10 basis. The BBC will be a 10. Clutton Cox has a Page Rank 4 for its home page. Getting links from high ranking sites gives you more kudos in Google’s eyes. It is better to have 1 link from a high ranking site than many links from low ranking sites.
My property blogs have been shortlisted for the prestigious PrimeLocation blog awards. Find other blogs on your subject and get into conversations. This increases your visibility on the web. There is a Law Gazette blog for example. Through leaving comments on the blogs I have begun a joint venture with a marketing expert.
Twitter is a micro blogging site where you are limited to 140 characters or a couple of sentences. For business purposes you follow people of interest and in turn you are followed. As a rule of thumb for every 10 tweets as they are called 1-2 can be overtly business orientated.
Twitter allows you to put a personality behind the on dimensional website. People tend to do business with people they like. You will also meet like minded souls. The internet is a giving rather than taking community. Tweeters like to spread knowledge and interest. I am following and being followed by other solicitors and lawyers in the US and elsewhere.
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. 27 million registered professionals. 8 million unique visitors each month. The idea is to connect or stay connected with past companies, and join new groups and forums.
It can be characterised as taking business cards to the next level.
Bringing It All Together
I thought I would conclude with an example of how it is working for me and should be working for you.
Last Friday at 5.00pm I posted a blog entitled “Conveyancing in Yate” 10 Things You Need to Know if You Are Moving Home”. Yate is a town a mile away from me in Chipping Sodbury and dominated by corporate Estate Agents from whom we get no business. To get to these potential clients before they do, creating remarkable content on their relevant topics is my strategy.
I checked on Monday morning first thing, and typed into Google “Conveyancing in Yate”. My blog had been indexed by Google over the weekend and sat proudly at No. 5 in the organic left hand side list. Later that morning, I had an email from my website from a new client who had instructed me to do his Conveyancing online.
I telephoned the client and asked what had led him to choose us. He lived about 10 miles away but had found our website through Google. He had read my blog on Conveyancing in Yate and was taken by my local knowledge. He had all the information he needed to make his choice. We had been preselected.
Google had referred him to us.
Work in Progress
I want to put video testimonials on the site, audio content, and more cartoons.
I also want to help as many Sole Practitioners as possible achieve what I have achieved and to fight the next “event”, the advent of the Legal Services Act