Author Archives: Umbrella Legal Marketing

White Hat SEO v. Black Hat SEO

In the digital marketing world, there are different strategies that can be used for search engine optimization (SEO): black hat SEO and white hat SEO. Understanding the difference between them can help you better plan for your long-term SEO goals.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO essentially involves “tricking” Google and breaking the search engine’s SEO rules and guidelines by using unethical techniques.

 

These techniques are usually aimed at search engines and not human audiences. Black hat practices are used by those who are looking for quick results, rather than those who want to implement a long-term strategy intended to organically grow SEO.

 

While black hat SEO may work at first, depending on what you are doing, you will eventually get penalized for your actions, especially as Google continually updates its algorithms to crack down on questionable practices. Some consequences of engaging in black hat SEO practices can result in your site being sandboxed by Google or being de-indexed.

 

Common black hat SEO practices include:

  • Hidden text: adding text to your site that readers cannot see, but that is still on the site to be scanned by search engines. This can be done, for example, by making the hidden text match the background of the website. This practice has largely been discontinued as it has been identified as search spam by Google and all other major search engines.
  • Keyword stuffing: loading a web page with keywords to the point where it reads unnaturally.
  • Scraping: plagiarizing or copying content from sites that are popular with search engines onto your own site. It is very easy to get caught doing this.
  • Automatic article spinning: a version of scraping in which content is copied but automatic programs are used to replace words with their synonyms to make content appear “unique”. Content spun like this does not read well, does not contribute anything new or unique, and will be easily found (much like scraped content).
  • Cloaking: the content presented to the search engine crawler is different from the content presented to the user.
  • Link farms: getting a group of websites to link to one another, often through automated programs. This essentially spams the index of a search engine. It is becoming increasingly easy to get caught with an unnatural looking backlink profile or by linking sites that are obviously not relevant to one another.
  • Blog spam: also known as “spamdexing” involves automatically posting irrelevant or random comments, or promoting commercial services through blogs, comment sections, etc.

Black hat techniques are called “black hat” for a reason. They are questionable, risky, and will eventually get detected.  Many of these common black hat SEO techniques no longer work, and are not recommended.

 

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO essentially optimizes content and webpages the way in which Google wants things to be optimized using Google’s guidelines. SEO techniques target a human audience rather than a search engine.

 

Effective white hat techniques include:

  • Quality content: as we’ve often blogged about, creating quality content is a key SEO practice and foundational cornerstone for having a well-ranking site. At the end of the day, if you are not creating well-written, informative, unique, and regularly updated content that users will want to read and share, your site will not rank well, no matter what other SEO practices you implement.
  • User experience: is just as important as quality content. If your content is not formatted for use on both mobile and computer, takes a long time to load, or otherwise makes reading it a hassle, it will negatively affect user experience and affect your rankings.
  • Using keywords effectively: it is important to understand what keywords, combinations of keywords, or phrases your readers may be looking for, and organically including them in your content, your headings, metadescriptions, page titles, and other areas of your site. Do your research, include these keywords carefully, and ensure that you are not veering into keyword stuffing.
  • Relevant backlinks: links leading back to your site are key. If other sites are linking to your site, it is like a vote of confidence, flagging your site’s credibility to Google. Ensure that any and all backlinks are high quality, and those pages offer similar excellent content to your site.
  • Internal links: linking as many of the content pages on your site to one another is an excellent SEO practice. This can enhance user experience by offering a lot of quality information and keeping them on your site longer (also great for SEO).
  • Title tags: title tags are used to tell both search engines and visitors what a particular page on a site is about. The most effective title tags are concise, accurate, and descriptive.

 

There is no instant solution to SEO that will rocket your site to the top of the rankings- doing so organically, and within Google’s parameters will take time, but will be worth it in the end. White hat strategies often take longer to have an effect than black hat strategies, however, taking the white hat approach can pay off in dividends in the long-run. It will keep Google on your site and ensure you are not penalized.

 

If all of this seems overwhelming to implement while you run your practice, don’t worry- Umbrella Legal Marketing is here to help. We implement only white hat SEO strategies to ensure that our clients are making the most of their online presence.

 

We understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age.

 

With our help, you and your firm can stand out in today’s ever-changing legal landscape. Contact us by email or at 416-356-4672.

A Handy Guide to Google’s Algorithm Updates (2011-2018)

As we’ve blogged about before, Google regularly and consistently makes changes to its ranking algorithm (and yes, uses a lot of animal names in doing so).

 

Since 2011, when the first such change was introduced, there has been at least nine major updates, affecting how websites are ranked, and therefore, visibility. What were these changes, and how should law firms best optimize their sites for them? Read on for a handy synopsis of each.

 

Panda: 2011

Panda was Google’s first major algorithm update, way back in 2011. The intention behind this change was to fight against so-called “grey hat SEO” (stay tuned for an upcoming Umbrella blog about the differences between grey hat, white hat, and black hat SEO).

 

The goal of Panda was to improve the quality of search results by rewarding high-quality websites and down-ranking (i.e. diminishing) the presence of low-quality websites in search engine results.

 

The focus of the Panda update included:

  • Thin content: weak pages with very little substantive or relevant content.
  • Duplicate content: content that has been copied and appears in more than one place on the internet (can include pages on your own website where the same text is used with little or no variation in more than one area).
  • Lack of authority: content produced by sources that are not considered authorities on their topic.
  • Content farming: creation of a large number of low-quality and short pages, targeting every conceivable search term, often aggregated from another source or website.
  • High ad-to-content ratio: pages that consist primarily of paid advertising rather than original content.

Panda has since become part of Google’s core algorithm.

 

Best Practices Post-Panda

 

Best practices post-Panda include:

  • Publishing unique and original content on a regular basis, written by a knowledgeable writer with significant experience in your practice area;
  • Ensuring that all content pages and blogs are significantly lengthy;
  • Avoiding repetition of even short content, such as in your call to action at the end of each page and each blog post;
  • Beefing up any existing pages that may be too short or too “thin”.

 

Penguin: 2012

 

Penguin (yes, again with the animals), was introduced in 2012 and was intended to be an additional barrage against spam. It targeted websites that engaged in keyword stuffing and link schemes:

  • Keyword stuffing: filling a content page with unnatural and repetitive high-ranking keywords in an attempt to manipulate ranking. For example: “ABC Personal Injury LLP in Toronto is the personal injury firm in Toronto that Toronto plaintiffs trust when they need a Toronto personal injury lawyer to help them with a Toronto personal injury claim”
  • Link schemes & Link farming: developing, acquiring, or purchasing backlinks from low-quality or unrelated websites to inorganically increase the site’s authority.

Like Panda, Penguin has since become part of Google’s core algorithm.

 

Best Practices Post-Penguin

 

Best practices post-Penguin include:

  • Quality over quantity – focus on acquiring high-quality links (ie. from relevant, trustworthy with sites, with a good domain authority) rather than just the number of links;
  • Generate backlinks organically by creating quality, shareable content;
  • Regularly review your backlinks;
  • Check all newly acquired links;
  • Identify any suspicious or harmful links (such as “spammy” links)
  • Request the removal of any such links;
  • Disavow links where necessary.

 

EMD (Exact Match Domain): 2012

This was the second update introduced by Google in 2012. This updated was intended to prevent poor quality sites from ranking well simply by virtue of having words that match popular search terms in their domain names.

 

Prior to this update, people were gaming the SEO system by buying domains with an exact match keyword and building a site with very thin content and almost no value.

 

Best Practices Post-EMD

 

If you are buying an exact match domain, make sure your content is substantive, high-quality, and original/unique.

 

Pirate: 2012

This was Google’s third algorithm change of 2012 (yaaaar!). As the name suggests, the update targeted sites with pirated content (or content that had copyright infringement reports filed) from ranking well.  As a result of the change, pirated sites are demoted in search engine results.

 

Best Practices Post-Pirate

 

The Pirate update should not be of concern to law firms, as you are unlikely to be distributing the content of others without the copyright owner’s permission.

 

However, other sites may seek to pirate content from your law firm’s site, particularly if you are consistently producing high-quality, original, and informative content. It is important that your webmaster and/or developer insert code in indicating that your firm’s site is the original author of the content.

 

At the end of the day, the Pirate update is a good reminder that original, regularly updated and informative content is still king.

 

Hummingbird: 2013

Google reverted back to animal names with the introduction of Hummingbird in 2013. Unlike Panda and Penguin which were described by Google as “add-ons” to its existing algorithm, Hummingbird was cited as a complete overhaul of the core algorithm.

 

The update was intended to reflect Google’s attempt to understand the intent behind a user’s search (for example: long conversational phrases being searched rather than individual keywords) with the goal of matching them to more relevant results. It was also intended to improve vocal search at the dawn of technologies such as Google Home, Echo, Alexa, etc. all of which lend themselves to longer, more natural and conversational searches.

 

Best Practices Post-Hummingbird

 

The best way to deal with Hummingbird is to ensure that natural language is reflected in your sites content (including in titles and meta-descriptions!).

 

Pigeon: 2014

Google’s avian theme continued with the Pigeon update which was introduced in 2014. This update was intended to tie Google’s local search algorithm closer to its web algorithm and improve ranking parameters based on both location and distance.

 

This update provided a significant ranking boost to local directory sites and created a closer link between Google Web searches and Google Map searches.

 

Best Practices Post-Pigeon

 

The Pigeon update emphasizes the need for local businesses to have a strong organic web presence in order to effectively compete for local rankings. Some best practices in doing so include:

  • Emphasizing hyperlocal content: create video, image, and written content that associates your firm with a specific neighbourhood (if in a big city like Toronto) or local region;
  • Create a Google My Business page: create and regularly update a Google my Business page for your firm (especially your Name Address Phone Number, aka NAP profile). There are very specific ways in which to optimize Google My Business (GMB), and it is important to do so in the exact format that Google prefers. Working with someone who is experienced in setting up GMB is important;
  • Get featured in relevant local directories: ensure you are included in business directories that will likely rank high.

 

RankBrain: 2015

RankBrain was introduced in 2015 as a complement to Hummingbird.  RankBrain uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine the most relevant results in search engine queries. RankBrain continuously learns from searches to become more adept as time goes on.

 

Before RankBrain was introduced, Google would use its basic algorithm to determine what results to show for a particular search query. Post-RankBrain, it is believed that every search query now passes through an “interpretation model” that applies possible factors such as the searcher’s geographical location and the words of the search query to attempt to determine the searcher’s true intent.

 

Basically, before RankBrain, Google would try to match the words in your search query to words on a page. Now, RankBrain tries to figure out what you actually mean in your search.

 

This is again an attempt by Google to deliver more relevant results. RankBrain is intended to help Google process (and provide answers to) unique, unfamiliar, and original search queries.

 

RankBrain has been cited as part of Google’s overall Hummingbird algorithm.

 

Best Practices Post-RankBrain

 

Best practices post-RankBrain include:

  • Expand your keyword search (pay particular attention to synonyms and related searches);
  • Use natural language everywhere (again, this includes titles and meta-descriptions);
  • Track your site’s user experience (UX) (especially Bounce Rate and Session Duration) using Google Analytics.

 

Possum: 2016

Possum launched two year after Pigeon and was a further attempt by Google to provide search results based on the geographical location of the searcher.

 

Essentially, post-Possum, the closer a searcher is to your law firm, the higher of a chance they will see your firm among local search results.

 

Best Practices Post-Possum

 

The same best practices that apply post-Pigeon also apply post-Possum.

 

Fred: 2017

Google’s 2017 update was unofficially named “Fred” after Gary Ilyes, a trends analyst at Google jokingly suggested that all updates should be named Fred. This was quickly adopted by the SEO community as the moniker for the change.

 

Fred targeted websites using overly aggressive monetization tactics, including those with excessive ads and low-value content and little user benefit.

 

Best Practices Post-Fred

 

While it is OK to put ads on your website, consider using them sparingly, and avoid placing them where they may prevent users from easily reading and accessing your content.

 

Mobile-First Indexing/Mobile Friendly Update: 2015

This 2015 update, also known as “Mobilegeddon” was intended to ensure that pages that were optimized for mobile devices ranked higher in mobile searched and pages that were not mobile friendly were down-ranked.

 

The update was less about organic searching and more about Google responding to user behaviour, which, over time, was trending more in the direction of mobile.

 

Notably, this was one of the first updates in which Google provided actual information/a full explanation of what was happening, when it would be implemented, and how long it would take for full roll-out.

 

Best Practices Post-Mobilegeddon

 

All websites should be optimized for mobile usage. Google has a great resource for getting started.  You can also run a mobile-friendly test to see how your site is doing.

 

Page Speed Update: 2018

We wrote about Google’s Page Speed Update earlier this year, check out our post to learn more.

 

Best Practices Post-Page Speed

 

A page’s Optimization Score has a strong impact on its position in search results. Google has released a guide on the nine factors that influence Optimization Score which you should review and consider.

 

How Can Umbrella Help?

All of these changes can seem overwhelming and hard to keep track of. If you have questions about your website or would like guidance on ensuring that it adheres to all best practices suggested in the wake of all of these changes contact Umbrella Legal Marketing.

 

We pride ourselves on the sites that we build (and maintain) for our lawyer and law firm clients. Our stellar web design team constructs each site with a strong technical foundation aimed at maximizing SEO wherever possible, pay close attention to all major changes introduced by Google that could affect a site’s ranking, and we make changes and tweaks to all sites where needed.

 

Our outstanding writing and editing team (who are all former practicing lawyers) understand Canadian and U.S. law and can create in-depth, informative, relevant content specifically tailored to your target audience and client base.

 

Contact us online or at 416-356-4672 to learn more about what we can do for you and your website.

Establishing And Marketing Your Identity Outside Of Work

Distinguishing yourself from other lawyers in a crowded marketplace can be a difficult exercise.  Every lawyer advertises themselves as experienced, trustworthy, and reliable – and of course, you are too! So what can you do to distinguish yourself in your marketing efforts? There are a number of things you can focus on that you might not have thought of already. Here are just a few. 

What did you do before you were a lawyer? 

Our past experiences outside of law can help in a number of ways. Perhaps you’re a personal injury lawyer with a background in the medical profession, or a labour lawyer who worked in workplace management or in a union in a previous career. Career experience outside of the law provides lawyers with meaningful knowledge about the nuances of the areas they practice in. You can use this experience to let your potential clients know that your knowledge goes deeper than your experience as a lawyer, providing you with a leg up on the competition.  

 What do you do outside of work? 

It’s important to let people know that you’re about more than just your career. Use your social media channels or your blog to highlight what you and others at your firm do in your spare time. Do you play a sport? Do you volunteer with some awesome organizations? Are you involved in politics? Do you have any interesting hobbies? All of these things add to your public profile and can be used to connect to people outside of their legal issues. They could also be used to demonstrate experience in certain areas. For example, have you and other members of your firm participated in something like a marathon? Sharing what you do outside of work also gives your audience the opportunity to see you as more than just a lawyer, but as a member of the community.  

What causes do you care about? 

 Most people have social issues or charities that they care a lot about. Do you volunteer your time or resources in any of these? Sharing your interest and work in these areas not only humanizes you to your audience, but it also gives people the opportunity to connect with you on a personal level. For example, someone who volunteers for a non-profit on the weekends might be an ideal lawyer for a charitable organization looking to incorporatePeople may be more likely to hire a lawyer who they know is passionate about causes they are interested in. You can share your support of charities and nonprofits by blogging about them, posting photos of events to your social media channels, and sharing information about events you may not be involved in but support nonetheless. 

 

 At Umbrella Legal Marketing we work exclusively with lawyers, creating holistic marketing strategies designed to yield the best results and largest return on investment. We work closely with our clients to discover what sets them apart from their competition, bringing focus to how to promote their brand. Whether you need help with a website, social media support, overall branding, or anything else related to marketing, we have you covered. Please contact us online or by phone at 416-356-4672 to talk about how we can help you today.

The Importance of Balancing On-Site Content and Off-Site Content

Your law firm’s website is your digital calling card. A website that is up to date, optimized, and regularly updated is a critical element in positioning your firm as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, and authoritative source.  Well-written on-site content is therefore key. However, off-site content is just as important, as is finding the balance between both.

What is On-Site Content?

On-site content includes anything that lives on your law firm’s website, this includes practice pages, client resources, and your blog.

 

When utilized effectively, on-site content can help increase your search rankings and impact your authority, relevance, and trust.

 

Your website content should be written by someone who not only has significant marketing experience, but also a deep and thorough understanding of the law (and your practice areas specifically).

 

In addition to having high quality on-site content produced by a knowledgeable writer (or team of writers), all on-site content should also be optimized for search engines (SEO), including important elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and keywords (at the appropriate/optimal density).

 

Moreover, content should be regularly updated. New content should appear on your blog at least once per week, and new practice pages should be added to your site at least once per year.

 

What is Off-Site Content?

Off-site content is any content you create, own, or control that is found on external websites rather than on your firm website. This can include content such as press releases, articles in industry publications (e.g. Lawyer’s Weekly, Advocate Daily, etc.), interviews with newspapers and other media outlets, white papers, and similar. It also includes your social media pages, and can also include other content such as client reviews.

 

Optimizing off-site content is not as easy to do as optimizing on-site content, but it is possible. Depending on what type of off-site content you are dealing with, you may not necessarily have control over it, or you may have limited opportunity to provide input.

 

Where you do have input (such as in an article you write for an industry publication), you can use similar strategies as you do for on-site content, including keyword research. Additional, source specific research should also be undertaken (including researching what hashtags may be trending or popular when a post goes up, for instance).

 

Backlinks (also known as inbound links), created when one website links to another, are the foundation of effective off-site SEO. While backlinks are not, in an of themselves, considered off-site content, off-site content does create backlinks. Ultimately,  a law firm website with multiple high value backlinks will generally be better ranked than a similar site with less backlinks. Backlinks include natural links, manually built links, and self-created links. Stay tuned for an upcoming Umbrella Legal Marketing blog about backlinks.

 

Best Practices for Maximizing Your On-Site and Off-Site Content

  • On-Site Content is Still King: at the outset of creating your online presence, your primary focus should be creating excellent on-site content. Your website is your digital calling card. A website that is up to date, optimized, and regularly updated will likely not garner much interest from external or off-site organizations.
  • Be consistent: while on-site content is key, once you begin creating offsite content, it is critical to do so regularly.
  • Focus on social media: increasingly, social media posts are showing up in search results. Optimizing them just as you would a blog post or content page on your site is key. Ensure you are using appropriate hashtags.
  • Write across various channels and in different formats: think about where you may want your content to show up and tailor that content accordingly. By producing varying content across diverse platforms, you will be enticing potential clients from a variety of areas.
  • Be patient:In the long-term, both on-site and off-site content are important, and neither is necessarily more important that the other. Both will be required if you would like to see the most results.

 

At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we help law firms define their on-site and off-site content strategies, create compelling content on a regular basis, and get that content out there across multiple platforms.

 

Our talented team works with firms at various levels, from doing all the heavy lifting and entirely creating content for them from scratch, to working in conjunction with them on creating content.

 

This is one of many comprehensive services that we offer our clients. If you would like to learn more about how we could assist you with your digital presence, please contact us online or at 416-356-4672.

Marketing Yourself As A Trusted Resource

Putting a well-organized marketing plan into place can be difficult for lawyers. Lawyers are often extremely experienced in certain areas of the law, and it’s easy to get caught up in talking about how experienced you are, how good you are at your job, and why your firm is the best. While this type of messaging might make sense for some areas of marketing (billboards, newspaper and television ads), modern digital marketing demands more from advertisers. In order to build a trusting relationship with your client base, it’s important to represent yourself as more than a business. Instead, think of yourself as a trusted resource, and work to build and maintain that trust through valuable marketing initiatives.

Inform people of legal issues they aren’t aware of

As a lawyer, you spend your entire day immersed in the law. While your days might seem like nothing special to you, they’re extremely interesting to those outside of the legal community. Take a moment to share interesting news from the legal world with your clients. Things might be of particular interest can include stories impacting the day-to-day lives of people in your city. A great example is Canada’s plan to legalize marijuana, but can also include news around specific industries you might work in, such as insurance, family law, or criminal law. You may also want to consider attending industry-specific events, providing you with the opportunity to network with, or present to, a large group of people with specific legal needs.

What are the common questions you’re asked daily?

When people call a lawyer for the first time there’s a good chance they have a lot of questions they may be too nervous to answer. While some people might feel embarrassed to ask certain questions, others might be unaware of what they don’t know, or what they should be asking. This presents a great opportunity for you to take the time to proactively share some questions that you’re often asked. You can answer these questions in a blog or on social media, perhaps adding a video recording of your answer. By taking the time to give people answers to questions they’re likely to have, you’re providing a valuable service and making an effort to build meaningful relationships with your community and your potential clients.

How Umbrella Legal Marketing can help you

The team at Umbrella Legal Marketing is comprised of former practitioners, social media experts, and marketing professionals. Legal marketing is all we do, and we think we’re really good at it. We know what lawyers need to do in order to stand out in the market place and how to communicate with current and future clients. We help our clients with a range of marketing, social media, website content and re-branding, offering services such as:

 

  • Custom websites;
  • Custom content;
  • Custom blogging;
  • Search engine optimization (SEO);
  • Social media management;
  • Social media engagement;
  • Public relations and community marketing;
  • Professional photography;
  • Custom video creation;
  • Branding;
  • Business cards.

 

Contact us by email at info@umbrellalegalmarketing.com or at 416 356 4672 to learn how we can help you today.

 

 

Law Society Calls for Hearing into Marketing Practices of Infamous Toronto Personal Injury Firm

We’ve previously blogged about the Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO) scrutiny of the marketing practices of lawyers and firms in Ontario, and the discipline that may result where firms do not adhere to the Law Society’s rules that govern marketing and advertising of legal services.

 

Now, legal marketing practices are making headlines once again. Following a two-year investigation into the marketing practices of Diamond & Diamond, the LSO’s discipline division has announced that Jeremy Diamond marketed his services and those of his firm in a manner that is “likely to mislead, confuse or deceive” and that, Diamond referred out all prospective clients rather than having the firm take on cases.

 

The Law Society’s Allegations

The three-page notice of application issued last week outlines the allegations against Jeremy Diamond, which include, among other things, that between January 2013 and December 2017 he:

 

  • Advertised legal services through a “law firm” called, variously, “Diamond & Diamond”, “Diamond & Diamond Personal Injury Lawyers”, and “Diamond & Diamond Lawyers” when the entity was not actually a law firm as defined by the LSO’s rules (which define a law firm as one or more lawyers practising law);
  • Improperly marketed himself as “managing partner” and “managing lawyer” of Diamond & Diamond when he actually operated as a sole practitioner through an entity called the “Jeremy Diamond Professional Corporation”;
  • Improperly marketed legal services that he did not actually provide;
  • Advertised himself as a personal injury litigation lawyer claiming that he had “significant experience in all aspects of personal injury litigation” when he “did not represent or provide legal services to retained clients” and “his experience did not include conducting trials in personal injury litigation cases”;
  • Improperly advertised that he and his firm were specialists when they did not have a specialist certification from the LSO;
  • Improperly marketed his services through awards that “do not genuinely reflect the legal performance or quality of legal services provided”;
  • Improperly marketed his firm as being bigger than it is using descriptors such as “top-rated” and “most trusted”;
  • Improperly suggested that he and his firm are qualitatively superior to other lawyers;
  • Referenced monetary amounts recovered in past personal injury cases without including an accompanying statement explaining that past results are not indicative of future results.

 

The LSO notes that such marketing practices are contrary to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

 

The Firm Has Denied the Allegations

 

Diamond, through his lawyer, has denied all the allegations against him. His counsel notes that he expects that Diamond will be vindicated and that the LSO’s claims represent Diamond and the firm “unfairly and incorrectly”, and that Diamond’s involvement with cases has been mischaracterized.

 

Last year, Diamond was reprimanded by the LSO and ordered to pay $25,000 for failing to promptly provide records and documents requested by the LSO as part of its investigation into Diamond & Diamond’s marketing practices. Diamond’s lawyer notes that they will also be appealing the fine and the reprimand, arguing that the LSO is “mistaken in its view of the alleged failure to co-operate”.

 

A hearing date in this matter has not yet been set. We will continue to monitor developments in this regard and will provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, if you have questions about marketing your firm, contact Umbrella Legal Marketing.

 

Legal marketing is all we do, and we do it well. As former practitioners, and now social media and marketing gurus, we understand the needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to marry these unique demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age. We are dedicated to helping law firms with marketing, social media, website content, and re-branding while ensuring that the Rules of Professional Conduct are followed.

 

Contact us by email at info@umbrellalegalmarketing.com or at 416 356 4672 for more information.

 

Improving Your Law Firm’s Visibility in Google Search Results

By now, regular readers of our blog will know that having a well-designed, up to date, and user friendly (across all devices!) website is key to enhancing your firm’s digital presence.

 

However, redesigning and relaunching your site is just the start. In order to truly maximize your efforts, you must also think about strategies to get your website to be more visible in search engine results pages (SERPs).

A Quick Primer on How Google Works

Think about the internet as a vast and constantly growing digital library of absolutely everything. Google essentially functions as the head librarian who is in charge of organizing this immense wealth of information and making it easier to peruse and find what you are looking for.

 

Recent data indicates that Google has knowledge of more than 130 trillion pages across the web – that is a LOT of information. That means for every user query, there may be thousands or even millions of pages containing relevant information.

 

So how exactly does Google organize all of this in a manageable way? The answer is through a complicated process that involves crawling available pages, indexing, and algorithms. To make things even more challenging, this process is also always evolving – Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times every year.

 

While this may seem daunting, there are some key things to keep in mind to ensure your firm and its practice pages rank well in specific searches, even through Google’s consistent behind-the-scenes changes and updates to its search function.

 

Best Practices for High Search Rankings

 

  • Keyword Optimization

For excellent search results, ensure that all the pages on your site are correctly optimized for keywords.

 

Each page should be optimized both in the content of that page itself, but also in the title tag, headers, and meta description. Ensure that the length of your meta descriptions and title tags are updated when there are algorithm changes that may affect them.

 

  • Content Creation

No matter how many times Google changes its algorithm, ensuring your site has relevant, well-written and up to date content will always be key to your visibility.

 

The most effective law firm content anticipates what clients may be looking for online, and provides that information through a blog, podcast, or other online resource. Understanding what your clients need and responding to those needs across a range of platforms is key.

 

Content should be regularly created and posted. Ideally, blogs should be updated at least once a week, and more often if there is a key discussion going on or there have been legislative or other developments.

 

The more frequently you produce content, the more you become a reliable source of commentary and opinions on matters that are important for prospective and current clients, and the more readily you will position yourself as an authority in your practice area. Keep these five tips in mind when blogging.

 

Consider adding evergreen content – material that is unlikely to change in the near future and is something that prospective clients and other visitors to your site can come back to again and again as a reliable source of trustworthy information (this can include FAQ, a glossary of legal terms, etc.)

 

Create a content marketing strategy to help guide your efforts and make the content creation process easier.

 

  • Visual Optimization

Other than producing regular, high-quality, informative content, you should also ensure your site’s design is visually engaging and your site is easy to navigate. Both user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are key elements of a well-constructed website.

 

UI refers to everything that goes into how a user interacts with a site and helps visitors to your site (i.e. your prospective clients) find the information they need as simply, intuitively, and efficiently as possible. Your site should be designed with this in mind.

 

UX, on the other hand, refers to how a user experiences your site. The more well-designed and visually appealing your site is, the more engaging it will be to visitors and the better their user experience will be.

 

Important aspects of UX include the actual aesthetics and design of your site, its response time, and how accessible it is both on a computer as well as on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, In addition to content, consider using diagrams, infographics, video. Ensure that any multimedia used includes alt attributes optimized with the correct keywords (for images) and transcripts (for videos).

 

  • Internal Links

To enhance user experience overall, link as many pages together as possible. That means, for instance, linking the pages on divorce, child support, spousal support, equalization, and anything else that makes sense.

 

This will ensure that a prospective or current client who lands on your site to read about divorce, for example, will also find links to all these other relevant pages while they read about divorce, will likely click on them, and will remain on your site longer- great for user experience, and great for enhancing your overall authority.

 

How Can Umbrella Legal Marketing Help?

If all of the above seems overwhelming in the face of everything else you deal with in your day to day practice, have no fear- we are here to help! Over the years, Umbrella Legal Marketing has helped many clients redesign and launch new websites.

 

We understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age.

 

With our help, you and your firm can stand out in today’s ever-changing legal landscape. Contact us by email or at 416-356-4672.

Lawyer Lands In Hot Water Over Misleading Marketing

There’s nothing wrong with boasting about your firm’s experience in certain areas of law, the number of lawyers in your firm, or the combined experience of those lawyers. It is not, however, ok to boast about those things if they simply aren’t true.

 

The Law Society of Ontario recently held a tribunal hearing where a lawyer (the “Ontario lawyer”) was reprimanded for a number of issues relating to his marketing efforts.

A series of marketing no-no’s

 

The lawyer was called to the bar in 2013 and had practised as a sole practitioner in his Mississauga office since 2014. In 2015 the lawyer partnered with the managing partner of a Florida law firm (the “Florida lawyer”), registering a business name and executing a Professional Partnership Agreement that saw the Ontario lawyer named as the new firm’s Managing Partner with the Florida Lawyer named as its Controlling Partner. Only the Ontario lawyer practised law through the firm.

 

The Florida lawyer had a relationship with another business, which ran a few websites, including a lawyer referral website in the United States, and a Canadian website which presents itself as an automobile accident and injury helpline. The website ran television commercials in addition to its online presence. The advertisements stated that over 200,000 people have dialed the website’s number and that callers received medical and legal help. People who called the Canadian website and were identified as being from Ontario had their information sent to the Ontario law firm. The Florida lawyer testified that the anticipated arrangement between the website and the firm was that the website would be paid for referrals made to the law firm.

 

The Ontario lawyer also had his own website, which claimed to have offices in both Toronto and Mississauga. However, no Toronto office existed. The website indicated that a number of lawyers worked at it, including posting five photos of “lawyers” who were ultimately determined to have been actors. The website also boasted of the firm’s lawyers having “100 years of combined experience representing thousands of people.” However, the Ontario lawyer, who was the firm’s only lawyer, and had just four years of experience. Finally, the website marketed itself as being “aggressive” and claimed its lawyers “specialize in representing injured people,” though the Ontario lawyer had not received a specialization certificate from the province’s law society.

 

The Ontario lawyer admitted to the facts of the case, and in doing so, was found to be in violation of a number of a number of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which contains rules about marketing legal services. The first rule to be broken was around referral fees, which states a lawyer shall not pay to anyone for the referral of people who are not lawyers or paralegals. The firm’s agreement to pay referral fees to the website was in violation of this Rule.

 

Television advertising is also covered by the Rules, with Rule 4.2-1 stating ““A lawyer may market legal services only if the marketing (a) is demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable; (b) is neither misleading, confusing, or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive; and (c) is in the best interests of the public and is consistent with a high standard of professionalism.”

 

The advertisements were found to be misleading and confusing by advertising services it could not offer and experience it did not have.

 

The Ontario lawyer’s website also broke Rules 4.2-1, 4.2-1.2, and 4.3-1 by advertising for specializations the Ontario lawyer did not have,  jurisdictions it did not operate in, and lawyers who did not work for it. The tribunal took note of the seriousness of this breach, writing, “This is a particularly egregious breach because clients seek lawyers, and lawyers market to clients, based on skill and expertise. Pretending to be a law firm that one is not is a serious matter.” Lawyers are also not allowed to market themselves as being aggressive.

How to avoid these mistakes

 

Of course, building a personal brand and marketing your law firm is incredibly important. The key is in doing it right. If your law firm does specialize in particular areas of the law, does have a number of experienced lawyers working for it, and has offices in various cities, then by all means, those should be a part of your marketing plan. But even if they’re not, there are still plenty of ways to market yourself.

 

The key is in focusing on what you are able to offer, and what sets you apart from your competition. Are you a strong advocate, willing to always work towards the maximum compensation for a client? Or perhaps you build close, personal relationships with your clients. It could be that you are affordable, or have payment options that might help those without a lot of money.

 

These are all marketable traits, and are some of the many things Umbrella Legal Marketing does to help our clients. We work with lawyers at all stages of their career development in marketing the work they do, and the people they are. In addition to helping our clients market themselves, we also help them articulate, define and uncover their value propositions so they can better communicate what sets them apart from the competition.  At Umbrella Legal Marketing we work exclusively for lawyers. All of our writers are lawyers, and our co-founder is a lawyer as well. As such, we are intimately familiar with the Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct. If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you with your digital marketing, please call us at 416-356-4672 or find us online.

Brave New World: How Law Firms Can Generate Clients Online

In an ever-changing legal landscape, finding clients and generating leads can be challenging. More and more law firms are turning away from traditional forms of advertising and marketing and are looking to expand their digital presence, and their portfolio of clients.

 

However, how do you even begin to navigate the online world, and where should you focus your attention and resources? Here are some best practices to consider adopting to get started.

 

Step One: Update Your Website

 

Your website is likely the first contact any prospective client will have with your and your firm, and it is arguably the most important element of your online presence. A modern, well-designed, and regularly updated website is a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors and to attract new clients and new business.

 

If you a step ahead of the pack and are actively thinking about your firm’s online presence, go online and assess your website. Ask yourself some important questions. Start thinking about what you want your site to convey and what you want it to look like.

 

Thinking about your website as the fundamental building block of your digital presence is important and will provide a strong foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.

 

Step Two: Use Social Media

 

In this day and age, law firms can’t afford not to be on social media. Studies show that about 40% of people seeking a lawyer start their search online.  If your firm has a great website combined with a strong presence across multiple social media platforms, you will increase the likelihood that you will be the firm they decide to contact when its time to retain a lawyer.

 

Not only can regular, consistent use of social media on various platforms help position you as a subject-matter expert, or the “go-to” firm for a certain practice area, social media also allows your audience (including prospective clients!) to engage with you.

 

Social media is also a great way to drive traffic to your website.

 

Step Three: Drive Traffic to Your Site

 

Other ways of driving traffic to your site include:

 

  • Content: high-quality content is key to a successful digital marketing strategy and a way to drive visitors to your firm’s website. Firms who engage in the most effective content marketing will have an informative website full of well-written content that informs readers. This will include not only information about your firm’s value proposition and the areas in which you practice but also a blog and videos or podcasts.
  • Blogging: regular blogging is an integral part of a successful law firm marketing strategy. Consistent (at least once a week!) blogging is another great way to position yourself as a thought leader and reliable source of commentary and is a great source of original content for social media. Blog about frequently asked questions, developments in the law, policy changes, recent notable decisions that you or the firm may have been involved in. Post your blog to the site and across social media to maximize impact.
  • Online Advertising: proper and targetted use of Google Adwords is an effective way to drive traffic to your site, particularly if you are looking to draw clients from certain geographic areas or on certain types of matters.

 

How Can Umbrella Legal Marketing Help?

 

At Umbrella Legal Marketing we take a holistic approach to marketing. We know that a strategically targeted combination of diverse marketing efforts yields the best results and the largest possible return on your investment.

 

The most effective marketing solutions for law firms usually include an ongoing combination of online and traditional marketing, local & community advertising, and referral building. Among the services we provide are:

 

  • Custom websites;
  • Custom content;
  • Custom blogging;
  • Search engine optimization (SEO);
  • Social media management;
  • Social media engagement;
  • Public relations and community marketing;
  • Professional photography;
  • Custom video creation;
  • Branding;
  • Business cards.

 

To learn more about what we can do for your firm, contact us by email or at 416-356-4672.

 

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Join Us For The 3rd Annual Wake Up Dylan Lemonade Stand!

It’s always great to see clients who have causes close to their hearts and to see people come together to rally behind a cause (and it makes for great marketing content as well). One of the causes Umbrella Legal Marketing is passionate about is raising money and support for narcolepsy and cataplexy. Why narcolepsy and cataplexy you ask? Well, Umbrella Co-Managing Partner Lanna Barrison has a beautiful boy named Dylan who suffers from narcolepsy and cataplexy. Back in 2015 Lanna decided to launch a modest campaign in support of National Narcolepsy Awareness Day by encouraging her friends to post photos of them, their kids, or their pets sleeping, along with the hashtag #WakeUpDylan. Three years later #WakeUpDylan has ballooned into a full on fundraiser. It raised $2,000 the first year, $5,000 the second, and this year’s goal is $8,000!

 

What’s this lemonade stand all about?

 

The 3rd Annual #WakeUpDylan lemonade stand will be happening at Bakersfield Public School Park at 75 Misty Sugar Trail in Thornhill, Ontario. In addition to lemonade, there will be sweet treats, bracelets, cotton candy made onsite, and a promotional draw with amazing prizes! Bounce Entertainment will be on hand to DJ the event as well! Every single penny raised during the event will go directly to the Sleep Disorders Priority Fund at Sick Kids Hospital. The fund is earmarked specifically for narcolepsy research within the hospital.

 

The importance of awareness

 

Raising money for research into narcolepsy and cataplexy is great (and important), but it’s not all they’re trying to do. Narcolepsy and cataplexy are little, or misunderstood diseases. They aren’t directly life threatening, but they do have a severe impact on the lives of those who suffer, as well as those who care for them. By raising awareness they hope to help people develop an understanding and acceptance of what those suffer from narcolepsy and cataplexy are going through. Children with narcolepsy can suffer from exhaustion, spending most of their days warding off sleep. They can be too tired to venture outdoors and can suffer from mood swings as a result of fatigue. Money is great, because it can help lead to a cure. But awareness is just as important, because it leads to an understanding of what Dylan and others are going through.

 

What is narcolepsy?

 

Scientifically speaking, narcolepsy is a lifelong, incurable, neurological disorder caused by the depletion of the neurotransmitter hypocretin/orexin that affects sleep and wakefulness. Practically speaking, people suffering from narcolepsy feel as though they have been awake for three days straight. They don’t sleep well at night, and they’re sleepy during the day. When they do sleep, they spend too much time in the deep stage of REM sleep, while not spending enough time in restful, restorative stages. Narcolepsy can lead to hallucinations and sleep paralysis.

 

What about cataplexy?

 

Those suffering from narcolepsy often suffer from cataplexy as well. Cataplexy is a loss of muscle tone, often experienced during periods of strong emotion such as laughter, sadness, and anger. Cataplexy experiences range from droopy eyelids or a protruding tongue to a full body collapse. It is currently treated by antidepressants such as Prozac or Effecor, which suppress REM sleep and improve sleep quality. Xyrem (commonly referred to as the date rape drug) can also be used as treatment. However the side effects of these drugs are long and scare, and the long-term effects of their use is not fully understood.

 

Want to help?

 

If you live in the Toronto area it would love to see you on June 24. But it’s understood that many people live outside of the GTA or have other commitments. What is really need is awareness. Feel free to use the #WakeUpDylan hashtag, and share it if you see it on social media. Narcolepsy isn’t a popular media story, and any awareness that can be spread across the community is vital to the goal of creating a better understanding of the disease. Please feel free to visit this website to learn more about narcolepsy and cataplexy or click here to donate to the cause.

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