Tag Archive for David Smethie

9 Mind Boggling Facts about Law Firm Websites

dog searching the web
If you’re an attorney looking to generate new clients, you need to get in front of your target audience. That’s of course a pretty obvious statement. That being said, more and more people are looking for solutions to their problems online, via channels such as Google search, Facebook, and Twitter. So having a professional website for your firm is a no brainer. Or is it?

According to an infographic published by Rocket Matter, almost 40% of small law firms don’t have websites-nothing, nada, zilch! That is a shocking number, considering the power of online marketing for lead generation, customer acquisition, and branding. Also of interest is the fact that more than 35% of people looking for an attorney start their search online.

However, just publishing a website online doesn’t ensure that prospects will flock to your law firm. There are some basic web development best practices that must be implemented in order to maximize traffic, lead, and client acquisition. We’re going to discuss three such best practices, and using the stats provided by the Rocket Matter infographic, see how many law firm websites are in compliance.

Best Practice #1: Have calls to action throughout your website

Unfortunately, 70% of law firm websites do not have a call to action (CTA) on their homepage. This is a shame, as your homepage is generally by far your most trafficked page on your website. CTA’s are extremely important, as they convert your prospects into leads. Examples of CTA’s include a “Contact us for a free consultation” submission form, asking visitors to download your whitepaper in exchange for their contact information, or even something as simple as saying “Call Now to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney” (and of course provide your phone number).

Listing your phone number on your website sounds obvious, but 27% of attorney websites don’t have a phone number on their homepage! The best place to have your phone number is prominently displayed in the upper right hand corner of your website-and not just on your homepage, but every page on your domain. This way, prospects can easily contact you if they have any questions. Phone leads generally convert better than form submission or email leads. So make sure your phone number is prominently displayed on all pages of your website!

Along similar lines, 68% of lawyer websites don’t provide an email address on their homepage. To me, this is unbelievable. The legal market is very competitive, as you’re well aware. So it’s crucial to make it as easy as possible for those browsing your site to contact you. Some people prefer email to phone, so by all means, include your email address on not only your homepage and contact page, but on every inner page of your website.

Best Practice #2: Have well written and organized content that is updated on a regular basis

You’ll be surprised how many law firm websites haven’t been updated at all in years. In fact, referring back to those infographic stats:

  • Only 35% of law firm websites have been updated within the past three years.
  • Only 3% of law firm websites provide personalized content.
  • Only 53% of attorney websites have organized site content.

If your website design looks stale and out of date, it most likely provides a poor user experience. It probably is not mobile optimized (we’ll go over this in more detail in a couple of minutes) and comes across as unprofessional. If a prospect comes across a questionable looking website, they’ll likely leave and continue their search elsewhere.

That being said, having a sleek, professionally designed website is important, but it’s only one component of establishing an effective online presence. You can have the most beautiful website in the world, but if it doesn’t generate any traffic, it serves absolutely no purpose.

Page load speed is extremely important. Your site should be coded efficiently so it loads fast (Google takes page load speed into account in their search algorithm). People are impatient and expect sites to load quickly. If yours doesn’t, they’re not going to wait around. They’ll go elsewhere.

Along the same lines, a slow loading website can really kill conversions: a one second delay in page load time can decrease your website’s conversion rate by up to 7%. To see how quickly your site loads along with suggestions on how you can make improvements, visit http://tools.pingdom.com. Ideally, you want your site to load in 2 seconds or less.

Content, which includes text, images, and videos, is the most important part of your website and online presence in general. It describes your firm’s solutions and values. Good content, that is well organized and personalized, will convert visitors into leads. However the majority of websites lack quality content. Your website should empathize with your prospects while providing them with value. A value driven, educational approach is much more effective than a hard sales pitch. After all, people are on the internet to find solutions to their problems.

In terms of search engine optimization (SEO), sites that add fresh content on a consistent basis tend to rank better than static websites. The best way to update your website with new content on a regular basis is to have a blog. This can easily be done with WordPress. Adding content via the WordPress platform, once you get the hang of it, is about as difficult as using Microsoft Word. Make sure that the blog is on your main domain (ex: yourlawfirmsite.com/blog/). This will improve your site’s overall SEO and provide a better user experience, assuming your content provides value.

On-site optimization is an easy win, but often overlooked. This includes having unique and descriptive title tags and meta descriptions on each page of your website, incorporating your main keywords throughout your content (where appropriate), and having proper internal linking that logically directs a visitor through your site in such a way that they can easily consume and understand your content.

Best Practice #3: Make sure your website is mobile optimized

This is so incredibly important, yet only 1 out of 3 law firm websites are optimized for mobile. Sites that aren’t mobile optimized are difficult to read and navigate, providing a poor user experience. Not only that, but as of April 21st, 2015, Google is taking mobile optimization into account in their ranking algorithm (so if your site isn’t mobile optimized, expect it to rank lower on mobile search).

To see how your law firm’s site looks on various mobile devices, visit http://mobiletest.me. If your website uses adaptive design, it probably won’t display correctly with this tool. Another option for a mobile preview of your site is Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, which provides a screenshot of your website as Googlebot sees it (please refer to the below image, which shows how www.legalfunding.com appears on a smartphone).

Hopefully, you are greeted with “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” However, if you get a red “Not mobile-friendly” message, click on Pagespeed Insights for details on what elements need to be fixed and instructions explaining how to fix them (relay this information to your web developer).

Google Mobile-Friendly Test Screenshot for www.legalfunding.com

 

There are a few ways to ensure your site is mobile friendly. You can have a mobile only version of your site (such as m.yourlawfirmsite.com). This works well for some businesses, but you have a separate website that must be updated independently of your main site (which can be very time consuming, depending on the size of your site).

The other options are utilizing responsive or adaptive design. Both of these design types are coded in a way so that your website adjusts according to the screen size of various devices. If done properly, your site will look good on all devices-desktop, tablet, and mobile. Plus all your content is on the same url, so when you update your website, you only have to do it once (for a detailed explanation of the technical differences between responsive and adaptive design, read this article).

I personally prefer responsive design to adaptive. Most newer WordPress themes incorporate responsive design, so it’s relatively easy and cheap to have a web development firm customize a mobile responsive WordPress theme. If you’re doing a complete redesign, I’d recommend building your site with WordPress, using Genesis framework by StudioPress. This provides a clean, light weight framework for your theme, which will improve page load times.

In early 2014, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic. This trend is only increasing, so if your site isn’t mobile optimized, now is the time to get it done. This will not only provide a better user experience, but will preserve or increase your rankings in the search results. Plus mobile generated leads often have a higher conversion rate compared to desktop, as people frequently use their smart phones to search for a fast solution to a problem.

The fact that so many law firms have less than stellar online presences is shocking. However, this provides you with an opportunity to digitally dominate your niche. The above best practices may sound complicated, but for any competent digital marketer, these strategies are easy and relatively inexpensive to implement.

Photo Credit: Image by Konrad Förstner


Written by David Smethie, Senior Analyst, Origination at RD Legal Funding, LLC. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.

Law Firm Websites Hammered by Panda: What to Do if You Were Hit

panda
Google’s most recent algorithm rollout, Panda 4.0, had a profound impact on many websites in the legal sector. What exactly is Panda 4.0? It is basically a change to the search algorithm that decreases the rankings of low quality, spammy sites with thin content. Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, tweeted the following on May 20th, 2014.

To have a full understanding of what this means for your law firm’s website, it is necessary to understand exactly what constitutes “thin content.” A blog post from moz.com entitled “Fat Pandas, Thin Content” discusses seven possible definitions of thin content and what to do about each scenario. This is generally content on your website that is not original or contains very minimal information.

For example, if you are a personal injury attorney serving the New York City area, it used to be an effective practice to have a page dedicated to “New York City Personal Injury Attorney,” “Queens Personal Injury Attorney,” “Brooklyn Personal Injury Attorney,” etc. where the content is exactly the same except for the location. This technique used to rank for geographic specific long tail keywords, but is now considered thin or duplicate content, as it provides little to no value to the searcher and is intended for the sole purpose of gaming the search engines.

Now that you understand what thin content is, the real question is “how do I know if my firm’s site was hit by the Panda 4.0 update?” And more importantly, “if my site was impacted, what do I do about it to regain previous levels of traffic?”

To see if you were impacted, first login to your Google Analytics account. Go to “Acquisition” and select “All Traffic.” Then click on “google / organic” to bring up a graph of only Google unpaid traffic.

If your web site was hit by Penguin 4.0, you will most likely notice a significant drop of Google organic traffic from around May 21st, 2014 onward. Please keep in mind that this update occurred around a holiday, so depending on your niche, you should see a decrease in traffic on Memorial Day (Monday, May 26th). It is also likely that you get less traffic on the weekends, so keep that in mind as well. We’re looking for a trend over time.

You can also login to Google Webmaster Tools at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ to get similar data. If you were hit by this penalty, you’ll likely notice a sharp decrease in both impressions and clicks around the 21st of May.

Hopefully, your law firm’s website was not impacted. If it was, there are measures you can take to recover and get your traffic back to where it was previously. This may take a while, and recovery will not be immediate, as you must wait for algorithm refreshes to be pushed out. However, with some hard work and patience, recovery is possible. There is a great video transcript by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout where he discusses exactly what needs to be done to recover from a Panda penalty. You can read the video transcript at http://www.quicksprout.com/university/how-to-identify-and-recover-from-google-panda-penalty/ (be sure to scroll down below the video, which you can only view if you’re a paying member to the Quick Sprout Traffic University program).

If making the changes yourself sounds like too tall an order, you can always hire a web marketing firm to take care of this. There are some firms that focus on penalty recovery. I would recommend starting at Moz’s list of recommended service providers at http://moz.com/community/recommended. Moz is one of the most trusted and well respected resources in the search marketing community, so you can rest assured that any recommendation on their page is legitimate (companies cannot pay to get on this list). If your current web developer got you in this mess in the first place, it’s time to change internet marketing companies.

In short, because this update is related to content, you want to ensure that you are only producing rich, high quality content that is useful to your visitors. Long gone are the days where creating content solely for the search engines is effective. Today, it’s all about providing value to your end user. I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post them below!

Photo Credit: ucumari via Compfight cc


Written by David Smethie

NJAJ 2014 Boardwalk Seminar Annual Convention

royal flush
Joseph Genovesi and Richard Heilshorn of RD Legal Funding will be exhibiting at the New Jersey Association for Justice Boardwalk Seminar at Bally’s Atlantic City from Wednesday, April 30th through Friday, May 2nd.

This 3 day seminar is exclusively for trial attorneys and is designed to meet their continuing educational requirements. It is possible to earn over 23 MCLE credits, which is about a year’s worth. So if you’re a trial attorney and need to catch up on your MCLE credits, this is the perfect event to attend.

Some of the seminars include:

  • Secret Weapons for Winning MIST Cases
  • Making Rain the Old Fashioned Way: Being a Rainmaker Without Spending the Money
  • Multi-District Litigation: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
  • Social Media and Trial: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • The Unholy Trilogy: Talking, Texting and Trucking
  • The Myth of the Mild: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
  • The Dynamics of Persuasion in Proving Pain and Its Repercussions in Life
  • Structured Attorney Fees
  • Comprehensive Settlement Planning

If you happen to be attending the event, please stop by the RD Legal Funding booth (#67) to say hello and discuss how our post-settlement Fee Acceleration product can improve your cash flow and boost your law firm’s bottom line.

Photo Credit: banspy via Compfight cc


Written by David Smethie

RD Legal’s Twitter Account Hits 2500 Followers

2500 twitter followers
At around 12:30 p.m. on April 1st, 2014, RD Legal Funding achieved a social media milestone when their Twitter account hit the 2,500 follower mark. RD Legal is proud to embrace this new technology and is enjoying the branding, traffic, and leads that come with a strong social media presence.

Slightly over a year ago on February 26th, 2013, the company’s Twitter account surpassed the 1,000 followers mark. Since then, growth has accelerated, acquiring 1,500 new followers in less than 13 months (it took about 2 years to hit the 1,000 mark).

The growth can be attributed to Lulaine Compere’s constant updating of the company Twitter profile, combined with utilizing Twitter’s promoted account product.

RD Legal’s other social media profiles include:

In addition, the company blog (that you’re reading now), which focuses on the legal finance industry, recent lawsuits and settlements, and company news, contains over 500 blog posts. The main authors are Lulaine Compere and Shayna Keyles.

RD Legal Funding specializes in post-settlement lawsuit funding via their proprietary Fee Acceleration program. If you are an attorney working on a contingency fee basis with a slow-paying settlement, or a plaintiff experiencing a payment delay of your award, RD Legal can help with their post-settlement financing solutions.

For more information, please contact Joseph Genovesi, President of RD Legal, at 201-568-9007, ext. 140. If you’re ready to fill out an application, please visit our Apply Now page and fill out the quick form.


Written by David Smethie

2013 Beasley Allen Legal Conference and Expo

scales of justiceDavid Smethie and Lulaine Compere of RD Legal Funding will be attending the 7th annual Beasley Allen Legal Conference and Expo from November 21-22. The attendance of this conference has dramatically grown over the years, from about 400 lawyers in 2007 to more than 1,400 in 2012. All Alabama attorneys involved in private practice can attend the event for free.

This year, 12 hours of free CLE credit is available, which includes 1 hour of ethics. Practice areas that will be addressed at the conference include:

For more information about the event, visit http://www.expo.beasleyallen.com, or call 334-269-2343. If you plan on attending, please stop by the RD Legal Funding booth. We’d love to discuss how our post-settlement funding solutions can improve your law firm’s cash flow.

Top 3 Press Release Distribution Services?

eye in the newsPress releases are one of the best ways to spread the word about newsworthy information regarding your product or service. A well written press release distributed by the right service can generate substantial targeted traffic to your website. There is also the potential SEO benefit, although this is a hotly debated topic. However, the best, most carefully crafted press release is of little value if it doesn’t generate buzz. To accomplish this, it is of paramount importance to choose a Tier-1 distribution service.

Why is Tier-1 newswire distribution so important? Kind of sounds like a technical term, doesn’t it? To glean some insight, do a Google search for PR firms, or whip out your phone book and start calling PR companies at random. Ask to speak with a manager or principal, and ask them what newswire they use. I can almost guarantee you’ll hear the same two names the majority of the time: PR Newswire and Business Wire. You guessed it-these are the only two Tier-1 press release distribution services in existence.

There are multitudes of free and cheap “press release distribution” companies out there. Most of them, however, do little more than slap your press release on a website or two and then call it a day. The chance of getting any media attention from such a service is slim to none. If you want optimal results, you’re going to have to go with one of the Big 2.

From having used both services, I find that PR Newswire offers more thorough distribution and is much easier to use compared with Business Wire, meaning it takes significantly less time to upload a press release and prep it for distribution. Furthermore, looking at our Google Analytics, we’ve gotten significantly more referral traffic from press releases distributed via PR Newswire compared with Business Wire.

Just a quick note-we are a legal funding company that offers financial solutions to plaintiff’s attorneys. Your results will likely vary depending on your niche, as each newswire likely caters differently to various markets.

According to our analytics, over the past year, we received approximately 2,500 referral visits from prnewswire.com from numerous press releases wenews distributed. If you look at it from a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, it comes out to roughly $3.40/click. This may sound expensive, but if we were to purchase similar traffic through Google AdWords, the cost would be in excess of $10/click. In addition, this calculation is not taking into account traffic from our news releases being syndicated on other sites, such as Yahoo Finance and The Sacramento Bee. If I were to consider the traffic from these additional referral sites, the CPC decreases to well under $3/click. And this is high quality traffic that has generated numerous leads.

That being said, neither Business Wire nor PR Newswire is cheap. According to PR Newswire’s pricing guide (effective February 2013), a 400 word national distribution costs $775. If you plan on being wordy, it’s going to cost you $195 for each additional 100 words. Business Wire’s prices are a bit more expensive. From talking on the phone with a company representative, I was told that a 400 word national distribution costs $820, plus $195 for each additional 100 words. So based on pricing and results, I would put PR Newswire ahead of Business Wire.

But wait, the headline of this blog post is “Top 3 Press Release Distribution Services.” So what’s the third option? Glad you asked. I recently came across a company called eReleases that has an exclusive partnership with PR Newswire. So you get the same national press release distribution you would get through PR Newswire, but it only costs $399 for a 500 word release (the same service through PR Newswire would cost $970: $775 plus $195 for an additional 100 words). Plus you get the additional benefit of your release being sent to eRelease’s in house list of more than 100,000 opt-in journalists.

I was incredibly skeptical about eReleases initially just because it sounded way too good to be true. After all, you’re getting the same exact distribution service that would cost $970 for only $399, which if you do the math, is a $571 savings. That’s pretty drastic. So for clarification purposes, I emailed the company and asked them the following question:

We’ve been using PR Newswire’s service for the last year, and have been relatively happy with the results. How do your various services (Newswire Lite, Buzz Builder, Newsmaker, PR Pro) compare?

To which I received the following reply:

Hi David,

Great question! While we have a robust, custom national distribution through PR Newswire, we also have our own proprietary database of opt-in journalists to whom your release is distributed. This is reflected in the industry targets you choose for your release . . . .

The differences in our distribution packages are mainly based upon the word count of your release and the number of industry targets available to you. [PR Pro is 600 words and 3 targets ($499), while the Newsmaker is 500 words and 2 targets ($399)]. While the syndicated sites shown on the [Release Watch] reports are likely very similar since they’re both from PR Newswire, you are getting the added benefit of your release being sent to our own database of journalists as well.

Hope this helps!

Best,

Allison McAlister
Editor
eReleases Press Releases

So I decided to give them a try and was pleasantly surprised with the results. We actually got more traffic and more media pick-ups compared with PR Newswire’s standalone national distribution, as we received significant additional traffic from our press releases being placed on the eReleases.com site.

newspapers and magazinesTo be completely honest and thorough, there are a couple of disadvantages to working with eReleases compared with PR Newswire. With PR Newswire, you only need to give a 4 hour notice prior to distribution. With eReleases, you need to provide them the release 24 hours prior to distribution. In addition, PR Newswire allows you to schedule your press release for distribution anytime of the day. With eReleases, you cannot specify when you want your press release to cross the wire.

That being said, eReleases will distribute your press release prior to 9 a.m. EST. From my extensive testing of various distribution times, this is the most effective time to distribute a press release, using number of pick-ups from the Release Watch report as the key performance indicator. If I average out the number of Release Watch pick-ups from PR Newswire from releases distributed over the past year, the average release was syndicated on 291 different websites. Our press releases distributed via eReleases over the past month have averaged 313 pick-ups per release, an increase of 7.6% compared to our average PR Newswire release.

So the fact that you cannot specify your distribution time is really a non-issue, as eReleases distributes your release at the optimal time anyway. In summary, eReleases generated better results compared to PR Newswire, at a savings of $571 per release.

To answer the question posed in the headline of this blog post, the “Top 3 Press Release Distribution Services” are:

  1. eReleases
  2. PR Newswire
  3. Business Wire

Written by David Smethie, Senior Analyst, Origination, at RD Legal Funding, LLC.

2013 National Trial Lawyers Summit in Miami

National Trial Lawyers Summit at Loews Miami Beach HotelJoseph Genovesi and David Smethie will be attending the National Trial Lawyers Summit at Loews Miami Beach Hotel from January 27th-30th. If you are attending the event, please stop by the RD Legal Funding booth to discuss how our post-settlement funding solutions can accelerate your cash flow.

Some of the seminars include:

  • Voir Dire – Making the Jury Your Tribe by Kent Spence of The Spence Law Firm.
  • The Use of Persuasion in a Truck Accident Case from Voir Dire through Argument by Frank Branson of Law Offices of Frank L. Branson.
  • Turning the Tide: How PI Lawyers Can Create Positive Buzz for Themselves, Their Practices and the Legal Community to Make Clients Want You As Their Lawyer by Mike Papantonio of Levin Papantonio.
  • Social Media: How to Make Money Using Social Media from Those Who Have and How to Manage Your Reputation by Adrian Dayton of Marketing Strategy and the Law.
  • Witness Preparation: Old School No Longer Works With Both Fact And Expert Witnesses by Brenda Fulmer and Sia Baker-Barnes of Searcy Denney.
  • Tackling Federal Issues in Personal Injury and Products Liability Cases by David Sales of Law Office of David Sales.

There will also be a poolside party with a performance by legendary country music singer Kenny Rogers. We hope to see you there!

A Slow Loading Website Can Really Kill Conversions

wwwAccording to an article from seo.com, a one second delay in page load time can decrease your website’s conversion rate by up to 7%. Not only that, but if your site loads too slowly, your search engine rankings will actually be penalized. Below are five tips from Nate Babbel to decrease your website’s page load speed:

  1. Minimize HTTP requests.
  2. Ensure JavaScript and CSS calls are external.
  3. Make sure to aggregate external JavaScript and CSS calls into as few files as possible.
  4. Place all JavaScript file requests towards the bottom of pages on your website.
  5. Reduce images to the smallest size possible while still maintaining image quality.

For more detailed information about these five points, check out the below video by Nick Babbel entitled How do I improve my page load speed?

To make sure my website is loading at optimal speed, I use a tool called PageSpeed Insights at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights. You simply type in your URL, hit the “analyze” button, and you are provided a score and suggested actions to take to improve page load speed. The score is based on a scale of 1-100, and the higher the score, the better. The suggestion summary, which provides actionable steps to improve page load speed, is broken down into high, medium, and low priority. In my opinion, you definitely want to tackle any high and medium priority suggestions.


Written by David Smethie, Deal Origination Manager at RD Legal Funding.

2012 Boardwalk Seminar at Bally’s Atlantic City

We are looking forward to attending the NJAJ 2012 Boardwalk Seminar at Bally’s in Atlantic City on April 26th and 27th. If you are attending, please stop by and say hello. Joseph Genovesi and David Smethie will be at booth #123. Safe travels, and we look forward to seeing you there!

 

Mass Torts Made Perfect in Philadelphia

We are excited about the upcoming MTMP conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia on February 8th and 9th. Two of our members-Joseph Genovesi and David Smethie-will be attending.

If you are planning to be at the event, please stop by the RD Legal Funding booth!

For more information about the conference, please visit http://www.masstortsmadeperfect.com.