A prospective client recently posed the following 17 questions to us:
2. Do you outsource any services abroad?
3. How long has AttorneySync been in business?
4. Do you specialize in SEO?
5. Do you do Google Adwords campaigns?
6. What kind of reporting does AttorneySync offer?
7. Is such reporting substantive or fluff and stuff?
8. Do you provide ranking and analytics reporting on a regular basis showing our ranking for various search terms and reporting on new inbound links?
9. How do you plan to increase inbound links to our website?
10. Do you use link farms?
11. What is your contract term?
12. Do you allow for month to month or terminable on will?
13. What does your monthly fee include?
14. What tools does AttorneySync utilize?
15. Do you offer exclusivity in my location?
16. Upon termination do we own all the work? Do all the links stay up? Are there ANY adverse consequences for termination?
17. Does AttorneySync have a “long tail” strategy?
I am posting these here not to share how we answer each, but rather to discuss how each of these questions is important to selecting a law firm internet marketing consultant.
While getting references definitely has some value, I’ve always had a measured perspective on the reliability of references. First, by asking a company for references, you have already put them on alert to provide you with their “best reference sources”. Therefore, the reliability of a requested reference immediately loses some credibility. If you can find another way to obtain a reference, the reliability goes up. On balance, you should definitely consider not only looking at a reference’s website (with an eye toward the web marketing components), but also try to talk to a reference. Just keep the reliability of the reference in mind.
Do you outsource any services abroad?
I am presuming that this question is asked to avoid having to deal with poor outsourced customer service or questionable foreign seo practices. Either way, some better questions to deal with these issues are to make sure that you have complete transparency with what your web marketer intends to do on your behalf (make them obtain approval from you) and find out who you will be dealing with specifically on a day to day basis. The truth is that there are some web marketing tasks that make a lot of sense to outsource and can keep web marketing costs down. On the other hand, some tasks should be handled directly by your consultant, and some are best handled by people at the firm themselves. Again, the keys here are transparency and accountability.
How long have you been in business?
Not terrible, but not terribly informative. Better to get samples of work, talk to clients, and get an idea of how long the web marketer has been working with a particular client. The truth is that there are many companies that have been around forever that are doing poor work. On the other hand, there are many younger web marketing firms that are doing great work. And vice versa. While I’m guessing there is some comfort that the company has been established for a longer period of time, it’s not really a great gauge for your ultimate decision.
Do you specialize in SEO?
While at first glance this might seem like a redundant question if you’re looking for a law firm seo consultant, it’s actually a good question to ask. There are many web marketing firms that will sell you paid search management in the guise of seo. If you’re looking to increase your firm’s organic or natural search engine visibility, make sure you’re talking apples to apples with your prospective search marketer. Also, some web marketing firms specialize in other areas (i.e. website development), and offer “seo on the side”. Don’t touch that stuff. If you want greater web visibility, make sure the firm spends the majority of it’s time performing those services.
Do you do Google Adwords campaigns?
Again, this is a good qualifying question. If you want paid search management, you should make sure that you’re asking about it. Additionally, experience with paid search campaigns can be a reflection of a firm’s seo strategy. Paid search campaigns can offer a wealth of analytics data for law firm search engine optimization campaigns. Therefore, companies that are experienced with both organic and paid search campaigns tend to have a “leg up” on those that do not.
What kind of reporting you offer? Is such reporting substantive or fluff and stuff? Do you provide ranking and analytics reporting on a regular basis showing our ranking for various search terms and reporting on new inbound links?
Absolutely critical questions! Reporting is the means by which you will measure your law firm web marketing efforts. Find out what metrics will be reported, how often, and how. If the prospect doesn’t have a comprehensive reporting plan in place, beware. They may not be reporting because they are unable to produce results. Look for reports on traffic, leads, rankings, and links.
How do you plan to increase inbound links to our website?
Great question. This goes back to transparency. As a law firm, your professional reputation is the most valuable asset you have. Don’t let shady web marketing practices undermine the reputation that you have worked so hard to build. Find out the details for all strategies. Get approval for strategies in advance. Finally, if they don’t have a plan for link building (or claim their plan is a secret), you are almost guaranteed not to see results.
Do you use link farms?
While I respect the intention of the question, it really doesn’t get to the real issue. The definitions of what constitutes a link farm are all over the place. Ultimately, the only the thing that matters is whether Google deems a site, or a group of sites a link farm. Unfortunately, what Google determines is a link farm, and what others may determine is a link farm, don’t always coincide. Again, you’re better off understanding exactly what the strategy is. If the strategy involves acquiring links from many free for all sites that aren’t relevant to your practice, then they probably won’t produce results. While such sites may or may not be link farms, they probably won’t do much for you anyway.
What is your contract term? Do you allow for month to month or terminable on will?
Two more excellent questions. While organic search marketing definitely requires patience (we typically suggest 6-8 months), locking into 2+ year deals is not necessary. Hold your web marketer accountable for generating results in a reasonable amount of time. While you should be weary of search marketers that guarantee results in 24 hours, 1 week, or even 30 days, you should also demand reporting so that you can measure progress. If you don’t see improvements within 4-6 months, it’s probably time to begin shopping again.
What does your monthly fee include?
Another important question. Find out specifically what you are paying for. There should be no “secret sauce” or proprietary information when it comes to understanding what you are investing your money in. Get a good idea of all the services that are being performed and how the effectiveness of those services will be measured.
What tools do you utilize?
This question is not really necessary unless you know some pretty advanced search marketing concepts. I could name off a bunch of important tools, but for most legal professionals, they probably won’t mean much. However, if you are looking to learn a little law firm seo yourself, then perhaps you are interested in what tools are being used to perform keyword discovery, track phone numbers, monitor links, and to perform competitive analysis. This one is really up to you.
Do you offer exclusivity in my location?
Great question! Many web marketing firms (especially the larger ones), will take on several law firms as clients, even competitors. This creates a conflict of interest. Let’s face it, legal web marketing is competitive. If you’re marketing firm is helping you and 30 of your competitors, how can they possibly serve everyone’s best interests? Answer, they can’t. Usually, they have some system for producing better results for some firms over others (usually it’s the firms that pay them more money). Look for search firms that limit the number of clients they take on in a given area for a given practice.
Upon termination do we own all the work? Do all the links stay up? Are there ANY adverse consequences for termination?
More great questions. Watch out for companies who claim a proprietary right to your domain, content, etc. Also, look out for companies that will set up links on their properties, but remove all the links should you decide to quit. This is a very common scheme. Unfortunately, there will always be some adverse consequence to leaving a search firm. The biggest is that they are no longer performing search engine optimization services. Quality web marketing is a continuously ongoing and evolving process. The search engines are constantly re-assessing how they rank websites. If you think you can get a “dose” of web marketing and have success over time, you don’t quite understand the full picture quite yet. However, you shouldn’t be captive to a web marketing firm that threatens to destroy your visibility if you decide to fire them. Own the domain. Own the content. Own as many profiles or accounts upon which they are building links. Ultimately, in many situations, there will be lost links upon termination. You just want to be sure that it won’t be so many as to significantly damage your visibility.
Do you have a “long tail” strategy?
Without getting into too much detail about the long tail here, there are two things that are critical to taking advantage of the long tail, content and domain authority. Make sure you have a content strategy in place that will produce relevant pages, posts, articles, etc. to your site on a frequent basis. Be sure that the content is well-written and relevant to your practice. With regard to domain authority, links are the cornerstone. Again, be sure you know the source of where links are going to be generated. Do these two things, and you will see good longer tail results.