Legal marketing takes many forms – client referrals, lawyer referrals, speaking, writing, and online marketing. Online marketing can be the most expensive form of advertising – but if done properly can be incredibly effective. Indeed, for probate work, many of the possible clients live in another state from where the matter is or will be taking place, making online marketing the most effective way to reach many of those possible clients.
But online marketing is hard to understand, hard to measure, and hard to control. Many lawyers have signed up for advertising platforms and have been burned by high costs and poor performance. Plus, getting accurate and understandable feedback can be difficult.
The biggest advertising platform in the history of the world is the google advertising service known as Adwords. When a user performs a search on Google, advertising will appear – typically the top 3 results plus some results at the bottom of the page. Adwords contributed $134 billion to Google’s revenue in 2019.
Adwords is a competitive auction platform, where each advertiser is competing with other advertisers for top placements. Paying more delivers nothing more or better than being ranked higher than competitors, all to Google’s advantage. Probate is a competitive market for Adwords. The following is an Adwords tool where Adwords provides information on the bid necessary to rank highly.
The column in red displays the amount that a Google Adword advertiser would pay Google for the number one (paid) spot in the search results. For example, if an advertiser were to agree to pay to have results shown for the phrase “probate litigation attorney,” this tool indicates that a bid of $35.00 might be necessary to appear as the first paid search result. That’s $35 every time someone clicks on your ad and goes to your website. Ten clicks per month = $350 per month. So this adds up quickly.
Ten years ago, you could create a law firm website or blog, load it with several dozen pages of well written content, and clients would find the site and call. The environment now is far more competitive than even ten years ago. Giant competitors now dominate searches for many important key phrases, making individual law firm web sites harder to find from Google searches. For many important searches, giants like justia.com, nolo.com, avvo.com, lawyers.com, thebalance.com and legalzoom.com dominate search results.
Here are the first four organic search results for “California Probate Lawyer.” All large corporate website operators. Competing in this territory is difficult.
For that same “California Probate Lawyer” search, here are the paid Adwords listings. Many lawyers have resorted to paying for Adwords because they cannot compete directly with the large corporate competitors. (Also note that lawyers from outside of California are showing up in this search, because Adwords is hard to use. Imagine being a lawyer in New York and paying $30 for a click for someone looking for a California lawyer. Now multiply that by ten for a given day to see how this type of advertising can go out of control.)
Maintaining a successful content and search-based website or blog is time consuming. There are thousands of legal websites with blogs – a large number will roll out a large number of articles for a year or two, slow down to one article a month, and then slow down even more. That’s because blogging no longer works like it did 10 years ago, so most legal blog writers give up – maybe writing a few articles per year. The amount of competition for any search term has increased greatly from ten years ago. Google now ranks sites not just on content, but on a large number of technical factors, as set forth in Google’s 168 page technical manual for how it evaluates websites.
Google is also slow to place new content on the first page of its search results. In a study performed by ahrefs.com, they found that 95% of newly published pages do not show up on page 1 within one year.
Probatestars.com is a paid legal directory, so we obviously believe that these types of directories can work. Where they do work, in our opinion, is with a limited number of lawyers listed, and the lawyers appear within zero or one click.
Zero or One-Click Rule
If a consumer stumbles upon one of the large paid directories, the consumer will typically have to make choices for type of law, the relevant state, and the relevant county. The consumer must typically make two or three clicks before seeing a list of several dozen lawyers displayed that match the search criteria. From a basic marketing standpoint, requiring this level of involvement and activity before seeing available attorneys is not acceptable and greatly reduces the effectiveness of the service. Available attorneys should display on the first page that a visitor sees when coming to the site, or where only one click is necessary to see the attorneys. Anything more turns away possible clients.
Probatestars.com was designed so that the available lawyers will typically display on the initial page that loads – no additional steps required by a potential client. Of course, the site has tools to find a lawyer if necessary.
Lawyers are paying hundreds of dollars per month to display on a page with dozens of other lawyers doing the same thing in the same location. How effective is that? Some sites charge more for a premium listing – appear at the top, with bigger pictures and font sizes, to grab attention away from the other dozens of lawyers competing for the same business.
For now, Probatestars.com is accepting one lawyer per county – so that potential clients can find the one lawyer they are looking for – you!
The Theory of Long Tail Search
Probatestars.com was designed to comply with Google’s search guidelines for displaying information content. Following Google’s guidelines can cause Google to consider a site authoritative to the point where a site is a preferred site for delivering results in a certain subject area. Drafting long posts, with lots of detailed information about a narrow subject, is known as “long tail” search on the web. This article from a leading search engine tool, explains the concept.
Probatestars.com has sufficient authority in Google’s eyes such that results display high in the results for a large number of specific questions about probate that potential clients may have. Here is an example for the search phrase “deadlines in florida probate.” Probatestars.com shows up first, in the featured answer box – leading to higher credibility for the site in the eyes of consumers.