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Earlier this year, five of the legal industry’s top digital marketing agencies held on an intense two-day conference in Nashville — if you are serious about developing a digital strategy for your practice, these are the people you’d want in the room. So we asked Mark Homer if he would bring us the best — or most surprising — takeaways from the BEDLAM Conference.
At the end of March, I was involved with a conference that was started by five legal marketing agencies. The BEDLAM Conference (which is roughly short for Best Damn Legal Marketing Conference) was initiated by Conrad Saam of Mockingbird Marketing and held in Nashville.
So why would five competing agencies come together to share all their insider data on what’s really working in marketing law firms online — in front of one another and the audience?
The answer is that all of these agencies are education focused and are, frankly, frustrated with the misinformation or misdirection they were seeing from many vendors in the legal marketing space.
The specific data-backed content was made private just for conference attendees, with many presentations labeled as “no social posting allowed.” But since there was so much great information to share, I reached out to my agency colleagues for their perspective on some of the big takeaways from the conference to report here.
The biggest surprise (which should not be a surprise) was the consensus among all of the expert companies that the tactic of more and more content has reached its natural conclusion. In fact, all of the agencies are now actively engaged in what I call “legacy content management” — the practice of assessing dated content for efficacy in driving either traffic (and inquiries) or links and then carefully managing content out of the site. This flies in the face of the conventional “content is king” mantra espoused by most “experts.” This antipathy toward content extended toward blogging in general and blogging for the sake of SEO specifically.
I was amazed by the consistency of the messaging about how the future of organic traffic from Google for law firms is all about the Google My Business listing. Voice, Q&A and AMP-style results from Google will all be driven by the content they have about a law firm on their platform, and the cluster of information they find across the web. Why? Google doesn’t put faith in small businesses being able to create fast and good enough websites for its search base. Google My Business is their solution because of this. You need to do as much as you can to ensure you have an absolute complete listing with wonderful imagery, services, categories, videos, Google posts, reviews and seeded Q&A. As you do this, you will be able to be found. (See “GMB 411 FTW: Setting Up Your Business Listing.”)
Does this mean you can abandon your website? No, it just means you need to manage two websites: Google My Business and your personal domain. If you are wondering how you are doing compared with other law firms, check out our Nifty Marketing study on the state of law firm SEO in 2019.
Pro Tip: Taking it a step beyond just Google My Business would be managing your Apple/Siri listing, which is a combination of Apple Connect and, unfortunately, Yelp reviews.
A common thread among the agencies is that links still matter. However, I think the biggest message attendees heard that goes against the standard “more links” mantra is the focus on local links. A couple of speakers presented data that showed the volume of links was less important than getting quality local links.
One effective way to earn hyper-local links from local newspapers, event websites and community websites is to offer community-oriented events. I presented on one way we do this for our clients, which is by creating free cab ride reimbursement programs on major U.S. holidays. We build these events from the ground up and set the requirements for registration as well as the number of people who can claim the reimbursement. Others presented on offering scholarships. And one agency had a client talk about how just giving away Alabama tickets with some boosted Facebook posts and videos gained a lot of local links and tons of social media engagement.
What is a legal marketing conference without talking about reviews? The difference here is the discussion centered around specific processes law firms should implement, with a lively discussion by many of the attendees on what is and isn’t working for them to get reviews. Some of the firms in attendance had over 100 legitimate reviews, so the knowledge sharing wasn’t always just from the presenters.
In general, what was discussed was that the most effective way to get reviews from clients is by using the human element and getting your staff involved. After a case is settled, you can have the person who had the most contact with your client (typically a legal assistant) call the client and ask them about their experience. During this, they can inform the client that their performance review is coming up and that one of the ways their performance is judged is by reviews. Immediately after this phone call, email the client with a direct review link from a review link generator like this one. If they have a Gmail account it will automatically open the review window, which makes it easy! Many law firms shared that they incentivize staff for earning legitimate reviews with a small monetary gift or gift card.
Make reviews a part of your culture and your review count will thrive.
Here are a few things that stuck with me. First, the level of discourse with attendees was exceptionally sophisticated. Conversations centered around high-end link acquisition, attribution and Google Ads strategies. Second, there was a “no B.S.” vibe. A theme of accountability resonated throughout. Recommendations were supported by data and we, the speakers, held each other accountable for the rationale behind our suggestions. Third, there was a unique sense of transparency among both speakers and attendees. Instead of hiding and protecting, people came engaged and ready to share what they’ve seen work, what has failed, and how to know the difference. Finally, and recognizing my obvious bias here, the camaraderie of the presenters fostered an atmosphere of friendly competition that was apparent from the positive feedback from many of those who attended.
I agree with all of these points. But I was most surprised after a discussion that commenced when a few presenters talked about things that should be assumed to be critical to hiring a marketing agency. First of all, I was shocked by how many lawyers in attendance not only didn’t have ownership/administrator rights to their Google Analytics or Google Ads accounts, they didn’t have any access to them at all. Relying on your legal marketing agency to provide you with a report of “vanity metrics” and then trusting that they are going to tell you anything that could be going wrong? This has to stop!
All five presenting agencies give full access to (and highly encourage their clients to own) their analytics and ads tools, whether that’s Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Google My Business, etc. Almost all the major tools out there allow attorneys to own the account and add their agency vendor to the account. Make sure your agency gives you control of your data.
The other item I was surprised about was the number of lawyers still using proprietary platforms. It was summed up best by one of the presenters, who said that the most proprietary platform probably has less than 50 full-time developers working on it. It is crazy to think that it can keep up with the rapid SEO and security issues that constantly change on the internet against an open source platform like WordPress. WordPress has thousands of developers pushing its boundaries every month, whether coding new features or patches to the core system or developing frameworks and plug-ins. It is for exactly these reasons that FindLaw, which has taken heat in the past for locking law firms into multiyear contracts with a hard-to-transfer proprietary platform, has recently begun moving to utilize WordPress.
Hat Tip: The funniest comment of the event was from Brianna Brailey, in her presentation that followed the theme “Content is not king,” when she said that “your crappy law firm blog is the single-use plastic of the internet.”
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, we hope to make this event an annual or semiannual event. Keep an eye on the BEDLAM website for updates on the next date and location.
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