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The Truth About Directory Listings

A winter picture of a UB Directory of North Ca...

A winter picture of a UB Directory of North Campus with Baird Point in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lawyers and directories seem to go together like macaroni and cheese, or at least they used to. Recently, directories seem to have faded from the Internet, especially after Google deleted their very own directory site. Nonetheless, several directories have survived, and for many lawyers it can be appealing to get their name listed on another website that receives a decent amount of traffic. But before you sign off, make a payment, or advertise on any sort of directory, you have to make sure that the traffic is indeed coming through. Getting listed on a directory full of spam and irrelevant content will only hurt your ranking and your reputation.

They’ve Piqued

If you want an honest answer, you’re going to get one. Directories have piqued. They were a big hit about a decade ago, maybe even more, but who can say for sure since they’ve almost entirely become outdated. However, directories are still around. And if you’re like most lawyers, you’ve probably come across, been approached by, or perhaps even agreed to be promoted on a directory. But just because directories are no longer “a thing,” it doesn’t mean that they’re all inherently bad. Yes, you can still get featured on a directory. And yes, it might be worthwhile.

But clearly, not all directories were created equal. Going forward, you have to be cautious about which directories you allow your law firm to be featured on. While not every directory can help your firm’s website rankings, many can certainly hurt them. That’s why you should consider several of the following points before you pay up, submit, or advertise on a directory.

Relevance

Relevance has always mattered a great deal when talking about directories, and will always matter a great deal. In fact, relevance plays such a huge part in SEO that you should just engrain that into your brain right now. So why is relevance so important? There are two things to think about.

First, search engines read content to determine what a website, or in this case, a directory is about. Without those words, Google would have no way of knowing how to index, let alone rank a website. So if Google reads that a website is a directory for lawyers, great! That’s how it will index it. But what if that directory also had articles about home décor and cupcakes. All of a sudden, Google is confused about the purpose of this directory and will consider it something of a link farm. Which isn’t good.

Second, think about how confused visitors will be when they see lawyers next to cupcakes next to reupholstered chairs. How reputable can these lawyers be if they have to advertise next to random, irrelevant content? Without relevance, both search engines and users have written off the directory without a moment of hesitation.

Before you sign up for a directory, take a look around the website. Is it just for lawyers? Or better yet, is it just for criminal lawyers? If it gets even more specific, such as a directory only for DUI lawyers, then it might actually be a directory worth using…if you’re a DUI lawyer. Also, take a look at the blog and any other content they have posted. If it all fits, then they might be onto something good.

Traffic

Okay, so you’ve found a website that has a pretty decent directory: they have lawyers in your field, a clean layout, and a pretty competent blog going on. But in reality, none of those thing matter if there’s no traffic coming to the directory.

If you’re searching for a directory to be listed on by your own volition, you might not be able to find these statistics. However, you can always try emailing the company or Webmaster to get a peek at their analytics. If you’re being approached by a directory to pay a fee and then have your very own submission, it will be incredibly important for you to find out what kind of traffic this directory receives before you even pay a cent.

Don’t just look into straightforward traffic numbers, either. Find out about bounce rates, conversion rates, and where most of the traffic is coming from. You’ll want to get a clear picture of the kinds of people these directories are bringing in because the may or may not end up being your clients.

Directory submissions are mostly a thing of the past, but lawyers still remember when they were vital and profitable. And while several directories are still around, they can’t all be trusted to promote your law firm. Before you sign up, research a directory’s blogs, content, traffic, and analytics to understand what kinds of benefits you can enjoy or learn about what kinds of spam you might become associated with. The name of your law firm is part of your reputation; don’t stain your good name by submitting to directories that can only bring your website penalties and shame.

Pete Wise is a copywriter working for the Eshelman Legal Group. When I’m not helping the intake department field new cases, I’m posting to my Facebook Page.

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Copywriting After Google Panda Stuck Its Paw In

BarCampParis #7 by Google

BarCampParis #7 by Google (Photo credit: Franck Mahon)

Google Panda has changed everything. Following its release in February 2011, search engine optimization experts are now reconsidering their strategies. If you’re a digital marketing graduate or aspiring copywriter who isn’t aware of how Google has changed its search engine algorithm, the following guide may prove invaluable as more and more companies move away from traditional SEO tools in order to survive in an increasingly unpredictable information superhighway.

Before Panda

Here’s a little background info. SEO is very complicated, but two of the most prominent techniques are the use of keywords (search terms) and the building of links across a wide range of websites. When it comes to keywords, companies need to optimize them so they can climb to the top of search results and get enough people pouring into their landing page. This is common knowledge now which is why search engines have started cracking down on this kind of behavior  sites which rely on keyword-heavy anchor texts in order to generate traffic risk a Google penalty, leading to a sudden drop in page rankings. After all, content should be written for people, not for search engines.

The “Now” Google Panda Strategy

Under Google Panda, the rules have now been tightened so ‘content farms’ and other similar sites have undergone steep decreases in traffic practically overnight.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, some of the Google engineers’ new metrics include penalizing sites which have a high percentage of duplicate content and inappropriate adverts, as well as a low percentage of original content across a number of pages. It is not just about keywords anymore, but the distinctiveness and relevancy of those words and some sites need bigger revamps than others. For example, a company website can suffer if it has several pages of low-quality content, even if the webmasters are regularly updating their landing page with fresh material.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this but some well intentioned sites, including some who have had a strong web presence for years, are struggling to adapt in this new environment. They need some help so they can work their way back to the top again. This is where you come in.

The Future

The approach of stuffing pages with as many keywords as possible is already looking very primitive. It is surprising that it was tolerated for as long as it did. Copywriters today need to throw out their old manuals and produce real, creative content again, where the keyword is not awkwardly wedged into the articles at any opportunity.

Guest blogging is increasingly growing in relevance. Newly search engine optimized pages are moving away from spammy articles that promote products and towards more genuinely helpful advice. For example, there are many pages with titles like ‘How to Write a CV’ or ‘How You Can Stop Smoking’, which provide a proper service and their keywords are merely incidental. It also leads to more creativity as once you start thinking about how you can provide information which isn’t similar or plagiarized from elsewhere; Google Panda can classify the website as having high-quality content.

Admittedly, there are some subjects that can’t be written about creatively in a non-blog article. Copywriters should nevertheless try the best they can in these cases whilst the webmaster generates traffic through other avenues, like social media plug-ins.

If you’ve ever read a memorable guest blog online, which was so good that you re-visit the webpage to occasionally re-read it or see what else is fun to read there, then it is more than likely the author worked hard to produce a unique and captivating article, which led to a keyword afterwards without the search term being the main focus of the content – rather than the other way round.

Ian Phillips is a writer who believes that good quality Guest Blogging practices and Social Media links are both important steps to improving the overall standard of the internet. He recommends using unique and creative material to engage with and attract online consumers.

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ClickStop Wires – Building a mini Data API for ecommerce

That is one big ball of twine

That is one big ball of twine (Photo credit: Great Beyond)

What to do when you need more versatile data from your web application – but they are just not keeping up with modern web development?

Where I work (US Cargo Control – a division of ClickStop) we use an all-in-one system called Netsuite.  I’m not very happy with it, but my job is web development…and that is the worst feature of Netsuite.  The software controls all of our company, including: accounting, inventory, purchasing, merchandising, human resources, CRM and web development.  It honestly does very well with most of our business – but with our companies being very involved with ecommerce, we are competing with very big companies with very big wallets.

In comes Clickstop Wires.

When it was first conceived we called it the “Product Database”, but it was too confusing for people to understand   It is about products…but it is much more than that.  Its really a backbone into building onto the company.  So we thought it was a good idea to change the name – so we (and by we, it was kind of me) called it “Pipes”.  Yahoo was dying and they had a project called Pipes…so it wouldn’t be a big deal right?  Then I felt guilty – so while writing this blog post, I made an executive decision…we’ll call it Wires…ClickStop Wires.

What is Wires?

Well – its a business intelligence engine.  Say what – its a database that “listens” to our website. We will put a little bit of javascript at the checkout page (and maybe others too) and then let Wires listen.  We will direct that data into Wires and let it collect.  After a while – Wires will get very smart.  It will begin to “now” what products people buy together.  What things people buy over time and what frequency they buy these items at.  Its going to get VERY smart.

Hand truck cover – or dolly pad

You could call it a data api for ecommerce.

Why do we need a data api for ecommerce

Good question – because of things like this.  We sell thousands of products…but many of the product relationships need to be setup manually.  So if we don’t pick the right things – we lose out on potential sales.  Here’s an example – hand truck covers.

We have a product what is a cover for hand trucks – or some call it a dolly.  Either way – we had a whole list of cool products “you might enjoy” with this product…but not one of them was a hand truck.  Don’t you think this is something we’d want people to know about?

Good question.  Do we really KNOW if they buy them together?  Probably not – because we don’t have the data.  We can’t look at a Wires dashboard and find out if we’re missing opportunities.

Items without related products can cost us money…that is bad.

My friend Dave would be proud of me – we need to track and analyze the data to know for sure.  Heck, for all we know the people buying hand truck covers may want to buy an Open End Wire Lever Snap.  We just don’t know.  This is why we need Wires – this is going to be very cool!

Here is another example – we have hundreds of products with no related products – we need to have these relationships working.  We need to sell more stuff!

So – by building an API, we will have the ability to add more items to more pages.  This will, with any luck, allow us to sell more stuff.

The same applies to the checkout page – we can analyze the items they have in the cart, and offer them other items which are related.  Its a win-win.  Customers see products they may have forgotten, we have the opportunity to sell more stuff.

What does Wires “look” like?

The Clickstop Wires API

Wires will allow us to do many things – we’re get the information from the checkout page and then push information out to the different web properties.  This will kick-out data feeds to Google and Bing, it will supply related items to our product pages, it will allow us to have “people who bought this also bought this” lists on the checkout page and even power our own site search to allow people to find more things – faster.

How/when/where will we build this data api for ecommerce?

Not sure – we’re working on it.  Check back soon – we’ll keep you updated right here.

[box type=”note” size=”large” style=”rounded”]NOTE: If you are a experienced API/connection type developer, drop us a note.  We’re looking for a developer who can hit the ground running with this project and build a solid set of wiring for the future.[/box]

 

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The Organic Search Benefits to Social Media {Infographic}

Social media activity may help improve your general popularity, but can it also help with your placement on search engine giant Google? A study and infographic by search engine marketing company TastyPlacement suggests that such activity can boost your Google rankings and give benefits to social media campains.

TastyPlacement’s research involved a study of six websites located in six U.S. cities. Five of the sites used different types of social media promotion while the sixth site acted a test control with no social networking activity. The results of the test were clear with four of the active sites showing significant improvement in search engine position. Only one website that involved recruiting Twitter followers saw a drop in Google ranking. While this is only one study, it does support what many other SEO experts have been saying, i.e. that social media plays an important role in search engine optimization. The test also gives web marketers guidance in the types of activities that work most effectively.

The test control website experienced no significant change in search engine results placement, so the study did seem to suggest that social media activity does help. Interestingly, the most effective type of social networking involved the search engine’s own platform, the Google+ website. The test showed a 14.63% rise for the site that secured 100 Google+ followers for its business page. The second most effective site was the one that got 300 Google Plus-One homepage votes. The only social media activity that resulted in a drop in Google search placement was recruitment of Twitter followers. The site that secured 1000 Twitter followers experienced a 1.22% fall in its search position. Overall, the results seem to suggest that social networking does help although the specific type of activity can determine the effectiveness of results.

The original study underlying this social medial Infographic was done by digital design and Austin SEO company TastyPlacement.

Making your page a good match for the query

When it comes to search engine optimization, one of the most important stages is the first one: choosing which keywords to target. If you get this wrong, you can spend months on a fruitless and frustrating SEO campaign. If you get it right, you can be on the receiving end of a flood of traffic, which can easily turn into a flood of sales or subscribers (if you’re building your list).

So, how do you choose the right keywords? There are of course many things you have to get right. In this article, we’ll consider just one of them – making sure you make a good match for the query. What do we mean by that? A couple of examples might help to clarify.

Suppose someone goes to Google and types in a phrase like “new iPad review.” We know from this that they are looking for a review of the new iPad (obviously). What this means is that if you want to rank well for that term, your site (or rather your webpage) will have to provide a review of the new iPad. Anything else will be inappropriate. If all you have on your webpage is a list of the new iPad’s specs, your page is not a “good match” for the query. If all you have is a picture of the new iPad and a big affiliate link, then again, your
webpage is not a good match for the query. On the other hand, if your page contains a complete, impartial review of the new iPad (discussing pros and cons), then it would be an excellent match for the search query: “new iPad review.”

Consider another example. Suppose that a lady types in “buy cheap iPad 2.” In case like this, a comprehensive review would not be a good match for the query at all. The lady who typed in “buy cheap iPad 2” is almost certainly not interested in reading a lengthy review of the 2nd generation iPad. She wants to buy the thing, not learn about its features!

So we know that a review of the iPad 2 would not be a good match for the lady’s query. What would be a good match? Well, in some way or other the landing page should probably present the lady with a cheap ipad 2 for sale. For this would allow her to accomplish her goal of buying a cheap 2nd generation iPad. If you were selling cheap iPad 2 tablets and your page allowed users to buy directly from you, that would work. Alternatively, you could present a list of different merchants, all of whom sell the iPad 2 for a low price. That would also be a good match for “buy cheap iPad 2” since it would facilitate the process of buying.

Whatever the search query is, you must ask yourself the question: “What does the user want?” What do they have in mind when they’re typing in that phrase? The closer you can come to delivering exactly what users want, the more likely it is that Google will consider you relevant. And relevance is one of the most important criteria for ranking high in the search engines.

But it’s not just about ranking high in the search engines. It’s also about conversions. If your landing page is not a good match for the searcher’s query, they will hit the “back” button asap. Your bounce rate will shoot up and you will hardly ever get subscribers or sales.
On the other hand, if your landing page gives users exactly what they wanted when they typed in their search phrase, then you can expect a much higher conversion rate. People will opt in to your list, buy your products, click your affiliate links or do whatever else you want them to do.

To sum up, then, if you want to do a good job or ranking in the search engines for a specific keyword (and gaining conversions as well), then you will need to make sure that your landing pages match the user’s query.