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    Is your online marketing strategy actually in line with your law firm’s goals? If one of your online marketing goals is to get more clients and sign more cases you need to start thinking outside of your website and conduct a visibility study.

    What is a visibility study? A strong visibility study will correctly identify the actual places you need to rank in the search results which will provide you the most benefit. For example, if you’re tracking common keywords to rank for like Personal Injury Attorney, or Houston Bankruptcy Lawyer, etc., you know that you want your website to rank for those keywords,but with the search engine’s continual updates, are you actually ranking in the right place? Let’s look at some history here to add a bit of context.


    Let’s Rewind to July 2014

    While there have been many significant Google updates over the years one of the most significant that affected local businesses was the Pigeon update in July 2014. Seemingly overnight this update rolled out and affected the ways that local law firms were published online forever.

    Previously where the first page of Google might have been littered with small law firm websites, the bigger websites such as Findlaw, Avvo, and Yelp rose to the top of the lists overnight. Since this was also an algorithmic change, we also saw the search results fluctuate greatly. If you were in the seven pack back then you may have moved around or may have disappeared off the map (literally).
    Pigeon attacked search results

    After this update we quickly found out that the local signals became more closely entwined with traditional organic signals such as link equity. This is what caused these huge monster sites such as the Findlaw Directory, AVVO, and Yelp to start ranking more prominently in many geographic areas. With these changes we saw a lot of fluctuations.

    What Were The Implications for Law Firms?

    The implications of these changes actually affected many law firms. Firms who relied mostly on organic and local SEO traffic for signing cases. Law firms who didn’t have solid marketing plans, reputation management, brands, or other case generation methods were in a bit more trouble. Yet those who had listings on authority websites such as Yelp & Avvo might have seen less of a dip or even a rise in some cases.

    These were of course further enhanced after the Snack pack update in August 2015 which reduced the number of local results from seven to three.

    The Purpose of Conducting a Visibility Study

    The purpose of conducting a visibility study is to take a real world data driven approach that ensures you’re showing up everywhere you need to be that will give you the highest conversion rate with the best quality leads.

    If you’re already tracking your conversions at a granular level and monitoring metrics such as case values by referral source, then you can use this data in an even more powerful way.

    How To Conduct a Visibility Study

    Now that you understand the importance of this exercise, it’s time to get to work. The good news is that this is an easy process. While you can take a shortcut and just do a sampling of your keyword you’re going to be the best off if you take a comprehensive approach.

    I also prepared an easy to use Google Docs Spreadsheet which you can use here.

    To get your own copy simply go to File > Make A Copy (This will allow you to have your own version to edit). This is pretty straight forward so you can record the information any way that you want.

    1. Start by opening the spreadsheet here and make a copy of it. It should look like the example below.sample-spreasheet-visibility-study
    2. Next come up with a list of all the keywords you want to rank for and paste them in Column B, the Keyword column. I recommend using no less than 20 to get an accurate idea, but the more the better!You should be using actual keywords from your SEO campaign that have recordable search volumes. It’s cool if you rank for “The Best Personal Injury Attorney Serving Hollywood and Surrounding Areas”, but if nobody is searching for that term it won’t help you. You can use Google’s keyword planner to get search volume estimates or semrush.com to spy on competitors potential keywords.
    3. Next you need to do some manual searches for each of the keywords. However you need to be careful about how you do these searches. Make sure to use a Google Chrome incognito window which you can access by clicking the three lines in the upper right hand corner of the Google Chrome Browser and selecting the New Incognito Window option.This will show your search results in their natural form. The way a first time searcher might see them. If you use a browser and are logged into Google while searching, your search results are going to be biased based on your previous search history. This helps remove the bias and get accurate results.
    4. Do a Google search for each of your keywords and record the competitors URL in the spreadsheet under the appropriate column. The first search result will go under Competitor 1 for example. I suggest you record all ten results so you can see which sites have the most visibility.**If you want to take advantage of my visual representation later in this spreadsheet do not keep the domain extension such as .com or .net
    5. Once your list is complete you can review the common threads. Since I’m a visual person I like to see the data in a more visual way to understand and comprehend it more. To do this I will use a free service called TagCrowd.com
    6. To use TagCrowd effectively you can simply copy all of the data you entered through your research and paste it into TagCrowd.com. This will visually display the most prominent websites like in the example below:Tag Crowd Example
    7. Now that you have collected this data you will have a real world representation of the sites which are ranking for your keywords. You now need to identify the common websites and get listed.

    What To Do After You Have Completed The Visibility Study
    Once you have completed the visibility study you have ACTUAL DATA to drive your decisions instead of decisions based off of incorrect emotions.

    Now that you know where you need to be listed you need to act on this data. Create a list of the top places you need to be listed and develop a strategy to have strong placement on each of them. If it’s a very prominent listing it may make sense to pay the listing fee.

    Keep in mind the additional benefits of being listed on directories and other websites that are not yours. If potential clients are visiting them and see you it’s a touch point. If they click the back button from there and go somewhere else to find you they will be more likely to click on your results. Make an impression, get listed where you need to be, and start enjoying the benefits of signing more cases with an increased reputation.

    Casey Meraz Casey Meraz is an entrepreneur, SEO expert, investor, creator, husband, father, friend, and CEO of Juris Digital. Casey is a frequent speaker at industry events and the author of two books on digital marketing, including "Local Marketing for Personal Injury Lawyers" and “How to Perform the Ultimate Local SEO Audit”
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