Online Traffic Sources Matter

Online Traffic Sources Matter

By Jay Fleischman

When lawyers start a campaign of marketing their practice online, we often want to get to the top of the Google search engine results page. After all, Google is the brass ring when it comes to search engines. Get to number one and you’re guaranteed a flood of visitors to your site.

The problem is that Google isn’t going to give you the best bang for your buck.

To explain, let me ask you a simple question: Would you rather have 10 new consultation appointments and get one new client out of it, or would you rather have 3 new consultation appointments and get one new client out of it?

Unless you’ve got serious math problems, you probably want the latter – 3 new appointments, 1 new client. Why waste your time with the other 7 people would don’t have much use for you anyway?

In fact, Google doesn’t give you the best visitors. I didn’t believe this until I happened across a post at Search Engine Watch. In the article, the author discusses how Google may give more traffic overall, but it isn’t the right traffic. Visitors from Google stick around less, read fewer pages on his site, and generally have a lower level of engagement.

The best traffic on his site came from forums in which he is a participant, social media sites such as Twitter, and other blogs. Google was way down in his list.

Interested, I took a peek at the stats on my sites – including some with extremely high traffic levels. If the theory was correct, it would bear out over all of my sites to one extent or another.

My findings were clear, and truthful across the board. Large sites and small reflected the exact same information. The traffic I get from search engines (Google. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc.) yield visitors who stay less time, are less likely to contact me or opt into my mailing list, and view fewer pages than other sites.

The best sources of traffic? Facebook, Twitter, forums in which I actively participate, and other blogs. Hands down.

This makes sense if you take a step back. People who find you on search engines have a specific question or problem, and come to you for an answer. Once the answer is uncovered, they’re happy and off the site. Some may stick around for more information, others to contact you or opt in – but for the most part, it’s game over.

The social media visitors (blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter and the like) are more likely to be people who have been exposed to you for awhile in one form or another. Twitter and Facebook visitors are your followers, and have come to trust your judgment and opinions. Blog visitors are readers of the referring site, and so when a recommendation is made in the form of an outbound link it carries a bit of trust as well. And on forums, if you’re actively participating then people know you as well.

When these folks visit, they are more likely to become (or refer others to become) paying clients in the long-run.

For a good look into why social media traffic is so compelling, check out Adrian Dayton’s take on the matter. You’ll also see my comment there, which says that, “They [social media clicks] are different clicks [from SEO or PPC clicks], neither better nor worse.” I stand by that comment, and think it’s important o bear in mind that I am not saying to abandon the search engines. Doing so would be commercially unwise.

What I am saying, however, is that by looking at social media and other sources for your traffic, you’ll begin the process of attracting some high-quality visitors to your site rather than simply looking to quantity.

Online Legal Marketing Begins With The Right Word

You’re about to launch your online legal marketing efforts – whether it’s a blog, a static website, or social media marketing strategy (ideally, it’s a combination of all three – but that’s another post for another day).  Where do you begin?  A domain name?  A hosting account?  Installing WordPress?  Hiring a web developer or a graphic designer to make your online home look all swanky?

Nope.  You begin with a word.  The right word.  Actually, the right words.

And I’m not talking about your pearls of wisdom, either.  I’m talking about your keyword terms, those words and terms that you want to rank for on the search engines.  Pick the right words and you’re well on your way to online legal marketing success.  Choose the wrong ones and you’re dead in the water, floating on page 48 of the search engine results page.

Bear in mind that you need not – indeed, should not – pick only one word to work with.  Pick 10, 20 even 50 words and phrases at the start; once you conquer them, you can move onto others.

If you’re marketing a bankruptcy law practice and are located in Cleveland, you may want to focus on “Cleveland bankruptcy lawyer,” or “Cleveland bankruptcy attorney.”  Depending on the traffic those terms get, and the competition on the search engines, these may be good or bad ideas as a place to begin.

First, you want to play word association with yourself, doing everything you can to brainstorm.  Think about the words people use when they talk to you.  Ask clients if they searched online for a lawyer and, if so, what they plugged into the search engine.

Next, you’ll need to do some legwork to determine the relative volume of searches done for each search tool.  There are a number of free keyword search tools online.  In no particular order, some of them are:

Wordtracker: Free Keyword Suggestion Tool
SEO Book: Keyword Suggestion Tool
Keyword Discovery: Free Search Term Suggestion Tool
Google Search-based Keyword Tool
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Google Insights for Search
Google Trends

Third, you’ll want to hand-pick some of the keyword search terms on which to focus your efforts. If you’ve got a relatively new site or are redeveloping an existing site from the ground up (i.e., a gut renovation) then you probably want to start off with the long tail keywords. These are keywords that don’t get a ton of traffic individually but get a good amount in the aggregate. By focusing on the long tail, you can pick up some traffic without as much competition.

Once you’ve chosen a bucket of keywords and search terms, you’ll be able to begin your online legal marketing efforts with gusto.  Of course, this is just the first step to climbing the search engine results page.  But without this critical first step, you’ll never get the success you seek.

Spy on the Competition

When I first started out using Google AdWords it was tough figuring out which keywords to use. Not only did I have to concern myself with the obvious ones like bankruptcy, but also the misspellings and tangentially-related words. It took me about a year to nail down my keyword list, and it still gets tweaked now and again.

I wish I had KeyCompete when I started out.

KeyCompete answers the question, “What Keywords are my Competitors Using?” It’s an online keyword research tool that identifies the keywords your competitors are using in their pay-per-click campaigns. The application also identifies the competition that is bidding on your keywords and lets you download the keywords that are driving traffic to competing sites, instantly.

Enter in a root keyword that best defines your marketing space. The results displayed will be the top competitors for that keyword. There may be few, or there may be hundreds.

You can also search for your root keyword and select the top competitor for that keyword. When the list of keywords is displayed, you will also have the option for a Competition Report for this domain, which is a report that shows all of the keywords that your competition is bidding on.

If you’re doing a Google AdWords campaign and want to spruce it up, or if you’re just beginning, give KeyCompete a try.