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Big changes were recently rolled out by WordPress, the open source content management system that powers approximately one-third of all websites on the internet. Given WordPress’ popularity, it’s no surprise that there was some apprehension when major changes to the user interface were implemented, specifically the new editor, Gutenberg. Gutenberg, named for Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the original printing press (not to be confused with Steve Guttenberg, inventor of the Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport known as ‘Johnny 5’), aims to make the creation of posts easier by breaking each post up into blocks. Posts are created piece by piece, and like the Lego sets we played with as kids, the blocks all fit together to form a complete structure. 

In the former editor, all of the content went into one editing block. Each section had to be formatted and altered in such a way that it would work with the surrounding text without affecting the layout or the look of everything around it. Authors would have to add different text formats, images and multimedia all in one place, and ensure that each component worked in harmony. Customizing the look of each post could be difficult without a working knowledge of HTML, which was often used to tag sections of text with various display commands. Now, each section of text (or media) is in its own block, allowing the writer to format each block separately, using buttons rather than HTML tagging. In the image below, you can see just a few of the options for format styles a writer can assign to a specific block of text: 

 Once a style format is selected, you can further customize each block with colour, text size, and other standard formatting options (e.g. bold, underline, etc.). Because each block is separate, the choices made for one block have no impact on the blocks before and after, which makes editing much easier.  See example below of a block, in this case set to ‘Paragraph’ mode:

How Will the Gutenberg Editor Affect My Blog?

 Older posts, created prior to the newest update, will not be affected unless they are edited or updated, in which case the editor will default to the new editor, and so may need a few adjustments to the formatting. 

New posts won’t look any different to visitors to your website in most cases, but the creation of the content behind the scenes is quite different. Once you’re used to working with the block format instead of the single text window, the new format is actually quite user-friendly. With the ability to alter the format of each block independently, writers can make changes quickly that don’t impact the rest of the text on the page. For example, adding a quote simply requires the author changing the block format to the ‘Quote’ style, rather than playing around with indentations and margins that may impact the text above and below that section.

Gutenberg isn’t Perfect

While the new editor is quite user-friendly, we have noticed a few minor issues that there don’t appear to be fixes for quite yet. As a result, it’s possible that you may notice one or more of the following issues when reading or creating a post in Gutenberg:

  • Numbered lists 
    • On some sites, numbered lists take on a slightly different look from the rest of the post. While the entire post may be created with a font that’s grey, for example, the list in the middle may appear black. At this point there isn’t an option to change colours in a ‘list’ block, and so for now this may affect posts where a numbered list is required. Oddly, the same has not been the case for bulleted lists. 
    • Another issue with numbered lists is the inability to customize which numbers (or letters) are used. For example, if a list starts at 1, but then has sub-items labelled a), b) and c), Gutenberg does not allow us to customize how the main items and sub-items will be identified. Indenting a sub-item starts the count back at 1, and does not allow a customization to begin at a). 
  • Spacing issues
    • On a small handful of sites, the new editor seems to have some quirks with the site design, resulting in spacing issues in blog posts. This is rare, but it is possible that in some cases a line of text may break in an unexpected place. In some cases these issues can be fixed by removing extra spaces in the back end, but in others we are still working on a fix. 
  • General issues
    • As with any major change, quirks happen. One-off problems pop up unexpectedly and present us with the opportunity to learn more about Gutenberg and how it interacts with our various sites. Umbrella clients can rest assured that if and when this does occur, we will make it a priority to resolve the issue immediately.

 The new Gutenberg editor is a big change and will take some time getting used to but in the short time it’s been in use, the intuitiveness has made the transition relatively smooth. If anything, this new editor will likely mean that more people will be comfortable using WordPress, opening it up to those who may have been intimidated by HTML coding and the like. For those small issues still outstanding, we are actively working on fixes, and we greatly appreciate your patience!  

As always, we will continue to monitor trends in the digital space and will provide commentary on why and how this may impact lawyers and law firms. In the meantime, if you have questions about how you can maximize your presence online, help use social media to your advantage or use content marketing we can help. 

At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age. If you would like to learn more about how we could assist you please contact us online or at 416-356-4672.

The post The New Gutenberg Editor in WordPress: Will it Affect Your Site? appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Digital advertising can be a great way to find new leads for your law firm. Whether you are advertising on search engines such as Google Adwords or through social media channels like Instagram, there are potential clients waiting to hear about you. One of the great aspects of digital advertising is its cost-effectiveness when compared with more traditional advertising, especially in terms of targeting your audience. However, it’s not uncommon for people new to digital advertising to make some mistakes that could lead to an unnecessary advertising bill and a lower return on investment.

Too many ads with too small a budget

It’s ok to work with a small budget. In fact, we often suggest starting out with a very modest budget in order to understand the effectiveness an ad may have. There are likely a bunch of different ads you want to try, as well as audiences you want to reach. However, you want to be careful about setting up too many ads with too small a budget, especially when getting started.  Having multiple ads with small budgets running may leave you with too little data to come to a conclusion as to which ad is most effective.

We recommend starting with two to three ads, perhaps focusing on different areas of law you practice and/or different audiences or geographies. Once you run them for a while and get an understanding as to what is working best, you can consider expanding the number of ads you run as well as your budget. You may also want to consider using A/B testing to try out small changes possible in a single ad. This will allow you to run one ad with one budget while still being able to assess different content within that ad.

Failing to think about ad objectives

There are a number of things a law firm might want to accomplish with digital advertising. Some popular examples include brand awareness, lead generation, or increasing followers. It is important to remember to set up your campaign around your business goals, which of course means you have to start with your objectives. For example, with social media ads, you generally want to avoid talking just about yourself. Remember, you have to give social media fans a reason to like or follow your page. Being too pushy with sales might very well alienate your audience. Instead, consider using one of your early Facebook or Instagram campaigns to let your audience know who you are, perhaps by letting people know about free consultations or other value-added services you may provide.

Your objectives may also indicate what your budget will be. For example, with every lead that comes in, you should be able to calculate how often it will turn into a client. Performing this calculation will allow you to determine how much you should invest in lead-generating ads in order to keep up a positive rate of return.

Not understanding campaign settings

Both Google and Facebook have robust campaign tools that allow you to control a large variety of aspects of your campaigns. By not taking the time to consider the implications of some of these settings, you could be wasting money. For example, with Google advertising, you could use geo-locating to send ads to people within a certain geographic radius of your law firm.

We talked earlier about making sure you consider the objectives of your ads. Campaign settings allow for marketers to set their objectives, including lead generation, conversion, or brand awareness. Other settings to pay attention those relating to your budget and audiences.

Most digital marketing platforms offer tutorials on how to get yourself up and running with your digital advertising campaigns We also offer seminars on this as well as all other areas of legal marketing. However, getting started is only half the battle. It’s equally important to monitor and adjust your advertisements as time goes on. At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we work with clients to create and run uniquely tailored digital ads for your firm. We work with our clients to help them understand the performance of their ads so they can be confident in their advertising investment. Please call us at 416-356-4672 or reach us online to discuss how we can help you with any of your legal marketing needs, including digital advertising.

The post Digital Advertising: A Primer To Get You Started appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Instagram is a wildly popular social media application that allows users to share photos or videos of themselves with their followers. While it was mainly used by individuals during its early years, its acquisition by Facebook and the promotion tools that came along with it have made it a powerful marketing tool that should not be ignored by lawyers. In previous blogs, we’ve discussed the importance of speaking to your audiences, wherever they may be. And with close to 200 million daily users, Instagram is most certainly somewhere your clients spend time. In addition, Instagram has reported that over 80% of its users follow at least one business. Here’s how to get the most of your Instagram account.

Post videos

In Instagram’s early days users were only able to upload photos to share. However, the advent of video content on the platform has allowed brands to interact with their followers in a much more impactful and meaningful way. In 2018, Instagram reported that video content receives more likes than their still photo counterparts as well as more comments. Much like on Facebook, material that lends itself to engagement is likely to be more popular amongst your followers.

When considering the type of video content to produce, look towards content that might be too long to explain quickly in written form. Videos should be short and sweet, and can provide a lead in for people to read your more expanded thoughts on a topic. Videos can be a great way to summarize a recent case or legal development in a way that might attract a new audience. It also provides you with an opportunity to showcase your personality, giving potential clients an idea of what to expect when they meet you.

Speaking of engaging content…

Video isn’t the only way to share engaging content. Infographics or screen shots of short written tips are also great ways to speak to your client-base about issues important to them. If a new case drastically changes an area of, say, family law, you can use an Instagram post to link to web content that explains the change in more detail.

Behind-the-scenes content is also great for Instagram. Just like on Facebook, candid photos from your office, community events, or charitable initiatives are perfect content to share on Instagram. If your articling student was recently called to the bar, consider taking a photo of the ceremony and sharing it. The same goes for interactions with clients who may have recently won a case, or scenes from outside courthouses. While it’s important to be sensitive to what is appropriate and what isn’t, there are often moments from these types of instances that lend themselves well to social sharing.

There are a couple of things you should keep in mind. We often refer to the 80-20 rule when discussing social posts, meaning 80% of your posts should be professional, while 20% should be personal. Your personal posts are an opportunity to humanize your firm and the people that make it special. Consider posting photos from community events, fundraisers, or other charity events.

Put Yourself in the conversation

Like all types of social media, it’s critical to be a participant in the conversation. Talk with people rather than at them. The legal community is large enough to build a sizable audience in, and niche enough to allow for law firms to establish themselves as leaders in the conversation. Consider using hashtags relevant to the topics you are discussing and following those hashtags to see what others in the space are posting. By commenting, liking, and otherwise engaging with those posts, you could quickly find yourself building an audience of people who are interested in what you have to say. You can apply this to your local community as well. We suggest posting about local events, and engaging with posts about these events made by others.

At Umbrella Legal Marketing we understand that technology changes faster than it used to, and it can be difficult to stay up to date with current trends and best practices. That’s why we add social media marketing to our services portfolio that includes web design, blogs, and more. We understand the unique marketing challenges of a crowded legal market, and help our clients shine by highlighting what makes them and their services stand out from the competition. Please call us at (416) 356-4672 or reach us online to see how we can help your law firm reach its clients base today.

The post Instagram For Law Firms: A Primer appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Websites; they’re obvious, right? One of the first steps a lawyer should make when implementing a marketing strategy is the creation of a website. Slap up your biography, a few notes about the areas of law you practice, a “contact us” page, and you’re done, right? If you’re reading this, we expect you already know there’s so much more you can do and absolutely should do with your website. Here are a few ways to make the most of your most valuable piece of digital property.

Search Engine Optimization

You might have the best-looking website in the world, but that won’t matter if nobody can find it. Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO”, is the tailoring of your website content so that its likelihood of appearing at the top of online searches is increased.

There are a number of steps you can take to improve your SEO. The most obvious is to use words and phrases that are likely to appear when prospective clients are searching for legal services. This could include mentioning the city you work in and the kind of law you practice. You can also include calls to action, encouraging readers to share your web content. This creates backlinks, which means your website is linked to from other websites. If you link to other sites, make sure they’re reputable and high-quality, because your ranking can be affected by the quality of links you provide. Finally, make sure you analyze which SEO strategies are working and which could use some improvement. Making data-driven decisions is the best way to ensure your SEO strategy continues to improve.

Break out your areas of practice

Making sure people know you are the best lawyer to handle their unique legal issue is critical in getting clients through your door. The best way to do that is to take the time to explain your different areas of service. For example, describing yourself as a family lawyer on a single web page isn’t necessarily enough to convince a prospective client that you are the lawyer best suited to their needs. Instead, create pages dedicated to each area of family law, such as divorce, separation, spousal and child support, etc. Doing so will give you the opportunity to explain these specific areas of law in some detail (which also happens to be excellent for SEO), while also highlighting your experience. Someone looking for a lawyer to handle an application for a variation of support obligations might be more likely to pick up the phone if they see you have experience in that specific area.

Pay attention to graphic content

Creating great written content is important, but it’s also equally critical to ensure your graphic content is of a similarly high standard. Start with getting professional photos of you and possibly your staff. Stock images are indistinguishable from one another and using them is a wasted opportunity of creating an initial connection with a client by creating a sense of familiarity when they finally meet you.

Going beyond photos, make sure your branding (everything from the colours used on the website, to your logo, to the fonts used on your site) is in line with how you want to project yourself. Your brand should reflect the kind of law you practice as well as the style of you and your team. Make it personal, professional, and memorable.

If getting yourself a best in class digital presence seems like a daunting task, don’t worry. The team at Umbrella Legal Marketing offers a complete range of legal marketing assistance. We can design your website, provide all your branding, and even write content and contribute blog posts. We work to capture what makes our clients different than their competitors, and market that to their future clients. Many of our team members are lawyers themselves, so we understand the unique needs of the legal market and the best way to talk about the services lawyers provide. Please call us at 416-356-4672 or reach us by to get started.

The post Making The Most Of Your Website appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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We’ve previously blogged about the importance of having a Google+ account for your law firm, despite the fact that the platform never gained the traction of other popular online offerings such as Facebook or Twitter. The biggest benefit to having an active Google+ account were the SEO benefits and the subsequent impact on search rankings.

This fall, Google announced that, following a security breach, Google+ will be shutting down over a 10 month period (culminating in August 2019), leaving many to wonder, now what?

The Trajectory of Google+

Google+ launched in 2011 and was intended to offer a rival platform to Facebook- it included a “stream” (like Facebook’s Newsfeed), and a hub of personalized content. You could share thoughts, ideas, photos, anything. Specifically, the product was intended to be both a “platform layer that unified Google’s sharing models”, and a platform/app in its own right. Google poured significant resources into Google+, hoping to push its widespread adoption.

For a time, having a Google+ account was a necessary prerequisite for using other Google services including Gmail and YouTube. When this failed to gain traction, Google began to walk back this tactic, before eliminating the requirement for users to tie their Google+ profile to other Google services in 2015.

Despite the delinking of Google+ from other Google products,  the platform continued to function and, along with Google My Business, became an important factor in adding behind the scenes SEO value for pages that were using it.

Google+ and SEO

Some tech insiders speculated that Google tried to artificially create the illusion of usage of Google+ by placing higher SEO value – this was never addressed. Regardless of whether or not Google had any such motives, it was clear that having a correctly set up and optimized Google+ (and Google My Business) account positively impacted a site’s SEO, and by extension, organic rankings and search results.

Both Google+ and Google My Business were used far more often than most people realized. Most Google users actually interacted with Google My Business every time they conducted a Google search for an organization on their mobile device or computer.

Why the Shut Down?

Google has admitted that Google+ failed to achieve the broad consumer adoption since its introduction and that the consumer version of the product had low usage and engagement (as compared to other platforms).

The company pointed to

…the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers’ expectations. Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.

A Post-Google+ World: Now What?

Google has noted that an “enterprise” version of Google+ will continue to be available for those using Google+ within their organizations to engage in internal discussions in a secure network. This pivot to an enterprise solution will be Google’s focus as they wind down the consumer version of Google+.

In terms of SEO impact, an enterprise version of Google+ being used internally would not impact search rankings. What then can law firms do to fill the void left by Google+? The answer may be to focus on other platforms, including Instagram, which is rapidly moving from just being a place where social media “influencers” share photos, and becoming a platform sharing where information, such as blog posts and other articles can also be shared.

At Umbrella Legal Marketing we will be doing our own pivot to focusing on alternate platforms, like Google reviews, as methods of optimizing search rankings. Over the next few months as Google+ winds down, we will be ramping up our clients’ presence across other platforms and in reviews in order to maintain visibility and results.

As always, we will continue to monitor trends in the digital space and will provide commentary on why and how this may impact lawyers and law firms. In the meantime, if you have questions about how you can maximize your presence online, help use social media to your advantage, or use content marketing we can help.

At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age.

If you would like to learn more about how we could assist you please contact us online or at 416-356-4672.

The post Google+ Is Shutting Down: What Does This Mean and Why Should You Care? appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Understanding Your Community

As a lawyer, it’s likely that you serve members of the community in which you work. Your community is your customer base, and like any business, it’s essential for you to understand your customer base in regards to its needs and demographics. There are a number of ways to do this. Here are some of our recommended practices.

Attend Community Events

Social, business, and charity events are great ways to gain an understanding of your community’s legal needs. Influential citizens of communities often attend fundraisers and other community events. You can use these opportunities to understand what’s happening in your city’s private or public sector. For example, you could learn of plans for the construction of a building housing a specialized workforce such as cyber security. By learning something like this, you can pick up on what kind of legal services the people occupying this building might need. Their legal needs could include employment matters, real estate law, immigration law if they plan on bringing people in from outside of Canada,  IT law, just to name a few. As with all of the strategies discussed in this blog, understanding how your community is changing will allow you to tailor your practice to grow along with it.

Social Media

Most people use social media for the expression of thoughts or ideas. Perhaps you saw a link to this blog on our Twitter feed or Facebook page. You may use social media yourself, either personally or professionally. Social publishing is certainly valuable, but an often overlooked aspect of social is the listening side. There are a number of third-party social media tools that allow you to listen for conversations around specific topics or keywords. You can even search for these conversations with geographic parameters. By employing a social listening strategy, you can see what people in your community are talking about as it relates to the legal profession. But you can expand your search to listen to conversations about development plans for your city, or news that may be tied to your practice. Think of social like you do other in-person networking events. Just listening to what people are talking about has tremendous value.

Demographics

As a city changes and grows, so do the people that make up its population. By paying attention to statistics around people in your community, you can begin to paint a picture about what their legal needs may be. For example, a rising population of young professionals might mean there’s a business opportunity for legal work in the real estate sector. On the opposite side of the age range is an aging population, which also has specific legal needs. Other relevant factors might include the types of jobs people in your community work, or the income levels in your city.

At Umbrella Legal Marketing we help lawyers with their branding, marketing and communications. By focusing exclusively on legal marketing, and by employing lawyers in the work we do, we are able to offer our clients the unique benefit of marketing and legal expertise. Whether you need help with a website, PR, social media management, or content creation, we do it all. Please contact us by phone at 416-356-4672 or reach us online to see how we can help you today.

The post Tapping Into Your Community To Discover Opportunity appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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In the digital marketing world, there are different strategies that can be used for search engine optimization (SEO): black hat SEO and white hat SEO. Understanding the difference between them can help you better plan for your long-term SEO goals.

Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO essentially involves “tricking” Google and breaking the search engine’s SEO rules and guidelines by using unethical techniques.

These techniques are usually aimed at search engines and not human audiences. Black hat practices are used by those who are looking for quick results, rather than those who want to implement a long-term strategy intended to organically grow SEO.

While black hat SEO may work at first, depending on what you are doing, you will eventually get penalized for your actions, especially as Google continually updates its algorithms to crack down on questionable practices. Some consequences of engaging in black hat SEO practices can result in your site being sandboxed by Google or being de-indexed.

Common black hat SEO practices include:

  • Hidden text: adding text to your site that readers cannot see, but that is still on the site to be scanned by search engines. This can be done, for example, by making the hidden text match the background of the website. This practice has largely been discontinued as it has been identified as search spam by Google and all other major search engines.
  • Keyword stuffing: loading a web page with keywords to the point where it reads unnaturally.
  • Scraping: plagiarizing or copying content from sites that are popular with search engines onto your own site. It is very easy to get caught doing this.
  • Automatic article spinning: a version of scraping in which content is copied but automatic programs are used to replace words with their synonyms to make content appear “unique”. Content spun like this does not read well, does not contribute anything new or unique, and will be easily found (much like scraped content).
  • Cloaking: the content presented to the search engine crawler is different from the content presented to the user.
  • Link farms: getting a group of websites to link to one another, often through automated programs. This essentially spams the index of a search engine. It is becoming increasingly easy to get caught with an unnatural looking backlink profile or by linking sites that are obviously not relevant to one another.
  • Blog spam: also known as “spamdexing” involves automatically posting irrelevant or random comments, or promoting commercial services through blogs, comment sections, etc.

Black hat techniques are called “black hat” for a reason. They are questionable, risky, and will eventually get detected.  Many of these common black hat SEO techniques no longer work, and are not recommended.

White Hat SEO

White hat SEO essentially optimizes content and webpages the way in which Google wants things to be optimized using Google’s guidelines. SEO techniques target a human audience rather than a search engine.

Effective white hat techniques include:

  • Quality content: as we’ve often blogged about, creating quality content is a key SEO practice and foundational cornerstone for having a well-ranking site. At the end of the day, if you are not creating well-written, informative, unique, and regularly updated content that users will want to read and share, your site will not rank well, no matter what other SEO practices you implement.
  • User experience: is just as important as quality content. If your content is not formatted for use on both mobile and computer, takes a long time to load, or otherwise makes reading it a hassle, it will negatively affect user experience and affect your rankings.
  • Using keywords effectively: it is important to understand what keywords, combinations of keywords, or phrases your readers may be looking for, and organically including them in your content, your headings, metadescriptions, page titles, and other areas of your site. Do your research, include these keywords carefully, and ensure that you are not veering into keyword stuffing.
  • Relevant backlinks: links leading back to your site are key. If other sites are linking to your site, it is like a vote of confidence, flagging your site’s credibility to Google. Ensure that any and all backlinks are high quality, and those pages offer similar excellent content to your site.
  • Internal links: linking as many of the content pages on your site to one another is an excellent SEO practice. This can enhance user experience by offering a lot of quality information and keeping them on your site longer (also great for SEO).
  • Title tags: title tags are used to tell both search engines and visitors what a particular page on a site is about. The most effective title tags are concise, accurate, and descriptive.

There is no instant solution to SEO that will rocket your site to the top of the rankings- doing so organically, and within Google’s parameters will take time, but will be worth it in the end. White hat strategies often take longer to have an effect than black hat strategies, however, taking the white hat approach can pay off in dividends in the long-run. It will keep Google on your site and ensure you are not penalized.

If all of this seems overwhelming to implement while you run your practice, don’t worry- Umbrella Legal Marketing is here to help. We implement only white hat SEO strategies to ensure that our clients are making the most of their online presence.

We understand the unique needs of the legal market, the ethical and practice standards that govern the profession, and how to effectively combine these specific demands with the realities of marketing in the social media and online age.

With our help, you and your firm can stand out in today’s ever-changing legal landscape. Contact us by email or at 416-356-4672.

The post White Hat SEO v. Black Hat SEO appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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As we’ve blogged about before, Google regularly and consistently makes changes to its ranking algorithm (and yes, uses a lot of animal names in doing so).

Since 2011, when the first such change was introduced, there has been at least nine major updates, affecting how websites are ranked, and therefore, visibility. What were these changes, and how should law firms best optimize their sites for them? Read on for a handy synopsis of each.

Panda: 2011

Panda was Google’s first major algorithm update, way back in 2011. The intention behind this change was to fight against so-called “grey hat SEO” (stay tuned for an upcoming Umbrella blog about the differences between grey hat, white hat, and black hat SEO).

The goal of Panda was to improve the quality of search results by rewarding high-quality websites and down-ranking (i.e. diminishing) the presence of low-quality websites in search engine results.

The focus of the Panda update included:

  • Thin content: weak pages with very little substantive or relevant content.
  • Duplicate content: content that has been copied and appears in more than one place on the internet (can include pages on your own website where the same text is used with little or no variation in more than one area).
  • Lack of authority: content produced by sources that are not considered authorities on their topic.
  • Content farming: creation of a large number of low-quality and short pages, targeting every conceivable search term, often aggregated from another source or website.
  • High ad-to-content ratio: pages that consist primarily of paid advertising rather than original content.

Panda has since become part of Google’s core algorithm.

Best Practices Post-Panda

Best practices post-Panda include:

  • Publishing unique and original content on a regular basis, written by a knowledgeable writer with significant experience in your practice area;
  • Ensuring that all content pages and blogs are significantly lengthy;
  • Avoiding repetition of even short content, such as in your call to action at the end of each page and each blog post;
  • Beefing up any existing pages that may be too short or too “thin”.
Penguin: 2012

 

Penguin (yes, again with the animals), was introduced in 2012 and was intended to be an additional barrage against spam. It targeted websites that engaged in keyword stuffing and link schemes:

  • Keyword stuffing: filling a content page with unnatural and repetitive high-ranking keywords in an attempt to manipulate ranking. For example: “ABC Personal Injury LLP in Toronto is the personal injury firm in Toronto that Toronto plaintiffs trust when they need a Toronto personal injury lawyer to help them with a Toronto personal injury claim”
  • Link schemes & Link farming: developing, acquiring, or purchasing backlinks from low-quality or unrelated websites to inorganically increase the site’s authority.

Like Panda, Penguin has since become part of Google’s core algorithm.

Best Practices Post-Penguin

Best practices post-Penguin include:

  • Quality over quantity – focus on acquiring high-quality links (ie. from relevant, trustworthy with sites, with a good domain authority) rather than just the number of links;
  • Generate backlinks organically by creating quality, shareable content;
  • Regularly review your backlinks;
  • Check all newly acquired links;
  • Identify any suspicious or harmful links (such as “spammy” links)
  • Request the removal of any such links;
  • Disavow links where necessary.
EMD (Exact Match Domain): 2012

This was the second update introduced by Google in 2012. This updated was intended to prevent poor quality sites from ranking well simply by virtue of having words that match popular search terms in their domain names.

Prior to this update, people were gaming the SEO system by buying domains with an exact match keyword and building a site with very thin content and almost no value.

Best Practices Post-EMD

If you are buying an exact match domain, make sure your content is substantive, high-quality, and original/unique.

Pirate: 2012

This was Google’s third algorithm change of 2012 (yaaaar!). As the name suggests, the update targeted sites with pirated content (or content that had copyright infringement reports filed) from ranking well.  As a result of the change, pirated sites are demoted in search engine results.

Best Practices Post-Pirate

The Pirate update should not be of concern to law firms, as you are unlikely to be distributing the content of others without the copyright owner’s permission.

However, other sites may seek to pirate content from your law firm’s site, particularly if you are consistently producing high-quality, original, and informative content. It is important that your webmaster and/or developer insert code in indicating that your firm’s site is the original author of the content.

At the end of the day, the Pirate update is a good reminder that original, regularly updated and informative content is still king.

Hummingbird: 2013

Google reverted back to animal names with the introduction of Hummingbird in 2013. Unlike Panda and Penguin which were described by Google as “add-ons” to its existing algorithm, Hummingbird was cited as a complete overhaul of the core algorithm.

The update was intended to reflect Google’s attempt to understand the intent behind a user’s search (for example: long conversational phrases being searched rather than individual keywords) with the goal of matching them to more relevant results. It was also intended to improve vocal search at the dawn of technologies such as Google Home, Echo, Alexa, etc. all of which lend themselves to longer, more natural and conversational searches.

Best Practices Post-Hummingbird

The best way to deal with Hummingbird is to ensure that natural language is reflected in your sites content (including in titles and meta-descriptions!).

Pigeon: 2014

Google’s avian theme continued with the Pigeon update which was introduced in 2014. This update was intended to tie Google’s local search algorithm closer to its web algorithm and improve ranking parameters based on both location and distance.

This update provided a significant ranking boost to local directory sites and created a closer link between Google Web searches and Google Map searches.

Best Practices Post-Pigeon

The Pigeon update emphasizes the need for local businesses to have a strong organic web presence in order to effectively compete for local rankings. Some best practices in doing so include:

  • Emphasizing hyperlocal content: create video, image, and written content that associates your firm with a specific neighbourhood (if in a big city like Toronto) or local region;
  • Create a Google My Business page: create and regularly update a Google my Business page for your firm (especially your Name Address Phone Number, aka NAP profile). There are very specific ways in which to optimize Google My Business (GMB), and it is important to do so in the exact format that Google prefers. Working with someone who is experienced in setting up GMB is important;
  • Get featured in relevant local directories: ensure you are included in business directories that will likely rank high.
RankBrain: 2015

RankBrain was introduced in 2015 as a complement to Hummingbird.  RankBrain uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to determine the most relevant results in search engine queries. RankBrain continuously learns from searches to become more adept as time goes on.

Before RankBrain was introduced, Google would use its basic algorithm to determine what results to show for a particular search query. Post-RankBrain, it is believed that every search query now passes through an “interpretation model” that applies possible factors such as the searcher’s geographical location and the words of the search query to attempt to determine the searcher’s true intent.

Basically, before RankBrain, Google would try to match the words in your search query to words on a page. Now, RankBrain tries to figure out what you actually mean in your search.

This is again an attempt by Google to deliver more relevant results. RankBrain is intended to help Google process (and provide answers to) unique, unfamiliar, and original search queries.

RankBrain has been cited as part of Google’s overall Hummingbird algorithm.

Best Practices Post-RankBrain

Best practices post-RankBrain include:

  • Expand your keyword search (pay particular attention to synonyms and related searches);
  • Use natural language everywhere (again, this includes titles and meta-descriptions);
  • Track your site’s user experience (UX) (especially Bounce Rate and Session Duration) using Google Analytics.
Possum: 2016

Possum launched two year after Pigeon and was a further attempt by Google to provide search results based on the geographical location of the searcher.

Essentially, post-Possum, the closer a searcher is to your law firm, the higher of a chance they will see your firm among local search results.

Best Practices Post-Possum

The same best practices that apply post-Pigeon also apply post-Possum.

Fred: 2017

Google’s 2017 update was unofficially named “Fred” after Gary Ilyes, a trends analyst at Google jokingly suggested that all updates should be named Fred. This was quickly adopted by the SEO community as the moniker for the change.

Fred targeted websites using overly aggressive monetization tactics, including those with excessive ads and low-value content and little user benefit.

Best Practices Post-Fred

While it is OK to put ads on your website, consider using them sparingly, and avoid placing them where they may prevent users from easily reading and accessing your content.

Mobile-First Indexing/Mobile Friendly Update: 2015

This 2015 update, also known as “Mobilegeddon” was intended to ensure that pages that were optimized for mobile devices ranked higher in mobile searched and pages that were not mobile friendly were down-ranked.

The update was less about organic searching and more about Google responding to user behaviour, which, over time, was trending more in the direction of mobile.

Notably, this was one of the first updates in which Google provided actual information/a full explanation of what was happening, when it would be implemented, and how long it would take for full roll-out.

Best Practices Post-Mobilegeddon

All websites should be optimized for mobile usage. Google has a great resource for getting started.  You can also run a mobile-friendly test to see how your site is doing.

Page Speed Update: 2018

We wrote about Google’s Page Speed Update earlier this year, check out our post to learn more.

Best Practices Post-Page Speed

A page’s Optimization Score has a strong impact on its position in search results. Google has released a guide on the nine factors that influence Optimization Score which you should review and consider.

How Can Umbrella Help?

All of these changes can seem overwhelming and hard to keep track of. If you have questions about your website or would like guidance on ensuring that it adheres to all best practices suggested in the wake of all of these changes contact Umbrella Legal Marketing.

We pride ourselves on the sites that we build (and maintain) for our lawyer and law firm clients. Our stellar web design team constructs each site with a strong technical foundation aimed at maximizing SEO wherever possible, pay close attention to all major changes introduced by Google that could affect a site’s ranking, and we make changes and tweaks to all sites where needed.

Our outstanding writing and editing team (who are all former practicing lawyers) understand Canadian and U.S. law and can create in-depth, informative, relevant content specifically tailored to your target audience and client base.

Contact us online or at 416-356-4672 to learn more about what we can do for you and your website.

The post A Handy Guide to Google’s Algorithm Updates (2011-2018) appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Distinguishing yourself from other lawyers in a crowded marketplace can be a difficult exercise.  Every lawyer advertises themselves as experienced, trustworthy, and reliable – and of course, you are too! So what can you do to distinguish yourself in your marketing efforts? There are a number of things you can focus on that you might not have thought of already. Here are just a few. 

What did you do before you were a lawyer? 

Our past experiences outside of law can help in a number of ways. Perhaps you’re a personal injury lawyer with a background in the medical profession, or a labour lawyer who worked in workplace management or in a union in a previous career. Career experience outside of the law provides lawyers with meaningful knowledge about the nuances of the areas they practice in. You can use this experience to let your potential clients know that your knowledge goes deeper than your experience as a lawyer, providing you with a leg up on the competition.  

 What do you do outside of work? 

It’s important to let people know that you’re about more than just your career. Use your social media channels or your blog to highlight what you and others at your firm do in your spare time. Do you play a sport? Do you volunteer with some awesome organizations? Are you involved in politics? Do you have any interesting hobbies? All of these things add to your public profile and can be used to connect to people outside of their legal issues. They could also be used to demonstrate experience in certain areas. For example, have you and other members of your firm participated in something like a marathon? Sharing what you do outside of work also gives your audience the opportunity to see you as more than just a lawyer, but as a member of the community.  

What causes do you care about? 

 Most people have social issues or charities that they care a lot about. Do you volunteer your time or resources in any of these? Sharing your interest and work in these areas not only humanizes you to your audience, but it also gives people the opportunity to connect with you on a personal level. For example, someone who volunteers for a non-profit on the weekends might be an ideal lawyer for a charitable organization looking to incorporatePeople may be more likely to hire a lawyer who they know is passionate about causes they are interested in. You can share your support of charities and nonprofits by blogging about them, posting photos of events to your social media channels, and sharing information about events you may not be involved in but support nonetheless. 

 At Umbrella Legal Marketing we work exclusively with lawyers, creating holistic marketing strategies designed to yield the best results and largest return on investment. We work closely with our clients to discover what sets them apart from their competition, bringing focus to how to promote their brand. Whether you help with a website, social media support, overall branding, or anything else related to marketing, we have you covered. Please contact us online or by phone at 416-356-4672 to talk about how we can help you today.

The post Establishing And Marketing Your Identity Outside Of Work appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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Your law firm’s website is your digital calling card. A website that is up to date, optimized, and regularly updated is a critical element in positioning your firm as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, and authoritative source.  Well-written on-site content is therefore key. However, off-site content is just as important, as is finding the balance between both.

What is On-Site Content?

On-site content includes anything that lives on your law firm’s website, this includes practice pages, client resources, and your blog.

When utilized effectively, on-site content can help increase your search rankings and impact your authority, relevance, and trust.

Your website content should be written by someone who not only has significant marketing experience, but also a deep and thorough understanding of the law (and your practice areas specifically).

In addition to having high quality on-site content produced by a knowledgeable writer (or team of writers), all on-site content should also be optimized for search engines (SEO), including important elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and keywords (at the appropriate/optimal density).

Moreover, content should be regularly updated. New content should appear on your blog at least once per week, and new practice pages should be added to your site at least once per year.

What is Off-Site Content?

Off-site content is any content you create, own, or control that is found on external websites rather than on your firm website. This can include content such as press releases, articles in industry publications (e.g. Lawyer’s Weekly, Advocate Daily, etc.), interviews with newspapers and other media outlets, white papers, and similar. It also includes your social media pages, and can also include other content such as client reviews.

Optimizing off-site content is not as easy to do as optimizing on-site content, but it is possible. Depending on what type of off-site content you are dealing with, you may not necessarily have control over it, or you may have limited opportunity to provide input.

Where you do have input (such as in an article you write for an industry publication), you can use similar strategies as you do for on-site content, including keyword research. Additional, source specific research should also be undertaken (including researching what hashtags may be trending or popular when a post goes up, for instance).

Backlinks (also known as inbound links), created when one website links to another, are the foundation of effective off-site SEO. While backlinks are not, in an of themselves, considered off-site content, off-site content does create backlinks. Ultimately,  a law firm website with multiple high value backlinks will generally be better ranked than a similar site with less backlinks. Backlinks include natural links, manually built links, and self-created links. Stay tuned for an upcoming Umbrella Legal Marketing blog about backlinks.

Best Practices for Maximizing Your On-Site and Off-Site Content
  • On-Site Content is Still King: at the outset of creating your online presence, your primary focus should be creating excellent on-site content. Your website is your digital calling card. A website that is up to date, optimized, and regularly updated will likely not garner much interest from external or off-site organizations.
  • Be consistent: while on-site content is key, once you begin creating offsite content, it is critical to do so regularly.
  • Focus on social media: increasingly, social media posts are showing up in search results. Optimizing them just as you would a blog post or content page on your site is key. Ensure you are using appropriate hashtags.
  • Write across various channels and in different formats: think about where you may want your content to show up and tailor that content accordingly. By producing varying content across diverse platforms, you will be enticing potential clients from a variety of areas.
  • Be patient:In the long-term, both on-site and off-site content are important, and neither is necessarily more important that the other. Both will be required if you would like to see the most results.

At Umbrella Legal Marketing, we help law firms define their on-site and off-site content strategies, create compelling content on a regular basis, and get that content out there across multiple platforms.

Our talented team works with firms at various levels, from doing all the heavy lifting and entirely creating content for them from scratch, to working in conjunction with them on creating content.

This is one of many comprehensive services that we offer our clients. If you would like to learn more about how we could assist you with your digital presence, please contact us online or at 416-356-4672.

The post The Importance of Balancing On-Site Content and Off-Site Content appeared first on Umbrella Legal Marketing.

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