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In mid-April, Google announced it was adding a new feature that lets you post auto suggested positive reviews from customer testimonials. The suggestions, to post positive reviews on your website, may pop up when you sign into Google My Business (GMB) or you may get it via email. Either way, it may be a bonus for your law firm to post positive reviews to attract more business.

The posts are sent to you when they are automatically triggered following a 4- or 5-star review of your legal services. What’s more you get to edit and review the post prior to publishing it. The posts are live on search for 7 days (by default) once published and may be set to be visible for up to 14 days. You will want to check every week for new positive reviews and promptly use them.

Consider this as well – posts may include a call to action, strategically placed when you share your good reviews. Once you get your review edited and ready for posting, add a call to action and link it to your specific legal service page. Another feature that may come in handy for a law firm is that the positive reviews may also be shown on Maps and in search results. Bonus – positive free advertising. What law firm or business owner can turn that down?

This latest addition to Google’s arsenal of tools to help business owners is rolling out in some countries, but they have not as yet identified which ones. So, you may or may not be able to try this latest addition to help you promote your business depending on where you live.

Another great feature included in the new offering is the ability to include up to ten images and videos. By adding more content to a review with images and videos, it makes what you do and who you are even more appealing and relevant. This could be some of the best quick advertising you could possibly utilize to showcase a lawyer, your firm or a particular service.

Keep an eye out for it – Google My Business may just be a game changer when it comes to converting new clients for your law firm.

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Content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and web design capabilities are ever-evolving. A law firm might have a website for only a couple of years before a design change is needed to add up-to-date content and increasingly new and advantageous functionalities. Along the way, mishaps such as broken links, known as a 404 error, can be quite common in a page or site redesign or migration. 404 errors are troublesome if multitudes show up, and can have costly repercussions on your SEO endeavors. The reason 404 errors penalize your rankings on search engines is because when users go to a page that is broken, it gives them a poor user experience. A search engine crawler will also scan the broken page, and see no content or optimization on the page. In order to remedy 404 errors, one way is to redirect the broken page to a page that is live, functions as intended, and gives the user a positive experience.

There are other reasons for wanting to redirect, such as if you’re using a new website with a different domain name, a page with a different URL, or even if the current page is under construction or maintenance.

There are also different redirect codes that should be applied for various situations, with the most popular code being 301. It is important to know which redirect code to apply, because they can have SEO benefits when applied correctly, and negative consequences when incorrectly used.

300 – Multiple Choice

A 300 redirect would be used if the page has various options available, such as filename extensions and video formats.

301 – Moved Permanently

A 301 redirect is the most prominent of redirects. It tells search engines the old page has been transferred permanently. This will cause search engines to no longer index the original page. You would use this when a new page is created to replace the old one. Acquiring domains, whether they’re similar or misspellings of your law firm, and subsequently redirecting them to your main site is a popular move. 301s also transfer link equity to the new page. Link equity is the prominence a particular web page has, acquired through internal and external links. This is extremely important from a SEO perspective, you want the effects made on your old web page or site to be transferred to the new one.

302 – Moved Temporarily / Found

A 302 redirect tells search engines that the redirect they’re making is only for a short while, presumably because the original page is being worked on. A 302 will not pass link equity to the new page, a distinction that is important to remember. A grave mistake would be to use a 302 for a page you’re planning on redirecting permanently. You will lose all relevance and optimization the original page accrued, and the new page will have to start from baseline.

303 – See Other

The page you’re looking for is under another URL. The URL you’re looking for can be found using the GET method. GET is a type of HTTP request method.

304 – Not Modified

If a page is static, meaning no updates or changes are made on it, then a 304 should be used. This will tell search engines it is not necessary to crawl the page again, speeding up the indexing process.

305 – Use Proxy

When someone goes on a page with a 305, a proxy, usually given, must be used to access it. Most web browsers do not allow 305s, because of the security issues that come along with using a proxy someone else offers as mandatory.

306 – Switch Proxy

This is no longer in use. It used to be that if you’d like to see a particular page, a specific proxy would be needed.

307 – Temporary Redirect

Similar to a 302 redirect, except the HTTP request method cannot change.

308 – Permanent Redirect

Similar to a 301 redirect, except the HTTP request method cannot change.

Now that you understand the basic concepts of redirects, how do you actually go about implementing these codes? If you’re using WordPress, there are handy plugins that make it easy to apply redirects to the necessary pages.

A few to consider are:
Safe Redirect Manager
Redirection
Simple 301 Redirects
301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager

If your website is not supported by WordPress, you will need to make the redirects directly on your server’s configuration file.

Dexter Tam is an Analyst at Custom Legal Marketing and is Google Partner Certified in Adwords.

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Picking good pictures for law firm online content can certainly be a chore, but it does not have to be. Here are a few tips that can help you choose the best photos to enhance your website or blog content.

Perhaps you may feel that it is not worth the time to find a good photo and then post it and decide to just run a blog post without a picture. While that is an option, it is important to understand that visual aids have the ability to improve learning by up to 400 percent and be processed at least 60,000 times faster than text alone.

Those are pretty convincing arguments for using well-chosen pictures. The higher rate of retention is due to the fact that most people are visual learners and retain visual images longer than just the written word. In short, pictures are much more likely to resonate with your readers over time.

Engaging your law firm website/blog audience

What can you do to get more engagement for your law firm website? After all, leads are the lifeblood of the firm. It’s all about attraction, attraction, attraction. Visuals provide a deeper, clearer understanding of the message and the message behind the message in an almost instantaneous manner, versus struggling with columns and paragraphs of words – a definite bonus for law firms.

On average, web content with pictures/videos gets up to 94 percent views. But did you also know that email-marketing campaigns with pictures have a higher click-through rate and that infographics can increase web traffic by 12 percent? This observation also applies to tweets where pictures/videos can average anywhere from 28 percent to 35 percent in retweets. And speaking of videos, it’s not much wonder that over half a billion people watch them daily, which mean more than 100 million hours of videos, are seen. Imagine that kind of exposure for your law firm and imagine the leads you could garner?

Choosing pictures for your law firm online content

Rule number one before choosing pictures is to plan your content, the message, the audience and what goals you have in mind. As you plan, see in your mind’s eye what types of animations, infographics, videos and/or images that may resonate with viewers.

What’s next? Generally speaking the more images you have the better, but it is best not to go overboard. Ideally, the number of pictures you use is related to the content, the audience and the topic. If you are aiming at an audience that does not understand or know much about the law, you may need more photos etc. to explain things. If you were writing to an audience very familiar with the law, you would need fewer pictures.

What to do and what not to do

There are some general rules to follow when choosing pictures for your law firm online content. They include:

  • Stay away from adding random stock photos in body content as often the pictures do not add value to the post and do not resonate with your audience because they are “too” generic.
  • An image is only as valuable as the value it communicates, so choose images because they say something about the value of your firm and its services.
  • Aim for memorable content with actionable snippets that are thought-provoking that may require a tutorial, screenshot or a guided walkthrough – it depends on your subject and audience. Bring your content to life with the pictures.
  • If it fits with your content, highlight/call-out specific sections of an image. Show the reader what is important.
  • Avoid using GIFs for niche audiences (such as other lawyers). While they can be funny, they are not always appropriate and do not work with every type of audience or every type of content.
  • Think your visuals are boring? Then have someone develop custom images for you. Custom visuals can be back linked to your website. The added benefit of custom visuals is that they break down complex information for readers into a format readily absorbed.
  • Content without images can and does fly, but not as well as content with images and those images greatly improve viewer recall and social sharing.
  •  
    The right visuals create the opportunity for sharing and sharing leads to more exposure, and more exposure leads to leads that can result in converting a client for your law firm.

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    UPDATE: April 15, 2019

    While the indexing issue has been resolved, Google is reporting related issues within Google Search Console.

    Search Console is still recovering from the indexing issue we reported on last week. As a result, index coverage and enhancement reports were not updated recently & URL Inspector might not reflect live status, at the moment.

    — Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) April 15, 2019

    UPDATE: April 9, 2019
    Google says they expect the error to be fixed within 12-24 hours.

    We are still resolving the indexing issue that has impacted some pages. We've made further improvements and hope any remaining issues will be done within the next 12-24 hours. Will provide a further update when the issue is fully resolved.

    — Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) April 8, 2019

    Original Story
    According to Bigger Law Firm Magazine, some website owners started noticing pages missing from Google’s index last Thursday, April 4th. Google’s John Mueller confirmed the problem but later prematurely announced that it had been corrected.

    On Sunday, Google’s SearchLiaison account posted the following update on Twitter:

    We're aware of indexing issues that impacted some sites beginning on Friday. We believe the issues are mostly resolved and don't require any special efforts on the part of site owners. We'll provide another update when the issues are considered fully resolved.

    — Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) April 7, 2019

    The team at Custom Legal Marketing has analyzed our websites and thus far, we haven’t found any high traffic pages affected by this bug.

    Is there anything to worry about?

    If your law firm is with Custom Legal Marketing, you have nothing to worry about. We have already analyzed your site and if a page was discovered to be deindexed, we’ve already requested reindexing.

    If your law firm is not with Custom Legal Marketing, the problem will more than likely correct itself in time once Google corrects the error.

    Will my search engine rankings be affected?

    Possibly. If your competitors are missing pages that were previously indexed, you may experience a temporary boost in your search engine positions. Of course, if you have a page that was deindexed, you will notice a drop in your rankings for whatever keyphrases that page was ranking for.

    If CLM isn’t managing your law firm’s website and search engine optimization, here is what you can do to check your pages and submit them for reindexing.

    1) Login to Google Search Console and select your website.

    2) Select the “URL Inspection” option from the left menu.

    3) Type in or paste the page URL you suspect may have been affected by the recent error.

    4) If the next screen says your “URL is on Google”, you don’t need to do anything.

    5) If your page is not indexed, you can click on the “Request Indexing” link as seen in the image below.

    Google is not asking webmasters to do anything at this time. The team at CLM is closely monitoring the situation and will be sure to take whatever action is necessary as we receive more updates.

    Jason Bland is Custom Legal Marketing's co-founder, head of new business development, and focuses on strategies for highly competitive practice areas.
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    Voice searches have steadily increased over the past ten years since smartphones were first capable of speech recognition technology with Google’s voice search app for iPhone. This increase has expanded to the point where, according to a survey by BrightLocal, more than half of consumers have used voice search to find a local business in 2018. For most law firms that do not operate on a national scale, having a strong local presence in search engines is one of the keys to a law firm’s success. In March 2018, Google implemented mobile-first index, meaning the search algorithms Google use in determining positions on their search engine result page (SERP) is predicated on how your mobile website is optimized. If the mobile version of your law firm’s website has not been optimized to maximize the potential of voice search, the time is now.

    Here are a few updates you can make to your mobile site to get the most of the increased usage of voice searches.

     
     

    From a layout standpoint, your mobile site will have less real-estate for information as opposed to your website on desktop. Therefore, it is important to be more meticulous in what goes on your mobile website. 28 percent of voice users will call a business directly after finding them from search engines. Thus, your mobile website’s above-the-fold content, everything a user sees when they first land on your page without scrolling, should contain captivating imagery and information relevant to the voice search query designed to allow an easy path toward a conversion action, such as a call or form submission.

     

    Including the cities and counties of your market area in your site’s content is important to ensure your firm’s listing will show up on the SERP. If a user does a voice search that entails “I got in a car accident in Chicago and need a lawyer,” and there is no or barely any mention of that city on your site, chances are your firm will not show up in the results. “Near me” is one of the first recommended query finishers Google applies to a search. Having a strong local presence will automatically give you eligibility in showing up for any “near me” search queries.

     

    Using Google Search Console and Google Analytics, look through the search queries people have used to find your law firm. Out of the queries that get the most impressions and clicks, is your content able to address these? Being able to answer the questions users ask most will ensure your firm has a place on the SERP.

    Generally, how people talk and type differ. Sentence structures are typically more formal and rigid when someone types, while conversational language like voice searches are more fluid. Your content on your site should account for this. Optimizing for long-tail keywords have started becoming more and more popular. Voice search queries are not usually done in short bursts, like “injury lawyer,” they are detailed, with the inclusion of additional verbs such as “I got injured and I need a lawyer.” Long-tail keywords are less competitive than their short-tailed counterparts, but they are just as important to ranking well on search engines.

       

    If you have content that relates to what a user’s voice search query is, you might be eligible to be in a featured snippet for that query, which catapults your listing to position zero, above everyone else. This will allow you to have a leg-up on your competitors. If you are able to maintain a featured snippet for an extended amount of time, you will have ownership of that respective key-phrase.

    Dexter Tam is an Analyst at Custom Legal Marketing and is Google Partner Certified in Adwords.

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    Contact forms are integral to most websites. For law firms, they provide an easy way for prospective clients to contact you besides phone calls or emails. Generally, law firm contact forms gather the name, phone number, email address and other optional details of website visitors interested in learning more about legal services. The digital collection of these details helps lawyers keep track of leads.

    Putting together a contact form is straightforward. What complicates things, however, is that most of today’s web browsing occurs on smartphones and other mobile devices rather than desktop computers or laptops. As a result, lawyers need to ensure their contact forms are mobile friendly.

    Mobile contact forms can be tricky as there is less screen space available, which can make interacting with forms frustrating to website visitors. The difference between a high converting contact form and a low converting one often comes down to the details, such as the simple design decision to use one column over multiple ones, or the choice of a red call to action button instead of blue.

    If your contact form is not yet optimized for mobile users, you risk losing valuable leads and conversions. Here are some simple tips to help law firms improve the design and functionality of their contact forms so that they work effectively on mobile devices.

    Opt for a one column layout

    One of the basics to get right when creating a contact form is the layout. A single-column layout instead of multiple columns is the preferred option for mobile optimization.

    Eye-tracking studies have shown that form fields positioned vertically rather than side by side are more effective. Placing form fields in a single vertical line works well because mobile users are accustomed to scrolling up and down the screen rather than horizontally to see the entire form. Additionally, the simple layout eliminates visual clutter, creating a better user experience.

    Filling in a form from a laptop or desktop computer tends to be simple because you have a mouse and keyboard that makes it easy to select the desired field and enter data. However, navigating a multi-column form can be hard on mobile devices.

    Choose the appropriate fields

    Another way to simplify mobile contact forms is to limit the number of input fields to only those that are necessary. Most law firm contact forms will have basic fields like Name, Phone and Email. Lawyers can also add an optional Details section where website visitors have the opportunity to enter additional information such as questions they have about a legal issue or service. However adding a Subject field, for instance, may not always be required.

    Having to spend extra time reading each field label, inputting information and then scrolling to the next field can be a frustrating process on mobile devices. The shorter and easier the form, the more likely people are to complete it. The same principle applies to the fields themselves. For example, avoid splitting the Name field into First Name and Last Name. Instead, combine fields that logically go together and place only one field per horizontal line.

    According to Hubspot, using three fields instead of four boosts conversion rates by 50 percent. Quicksprout agrees that there are benefits to limiting the number of fields to three, pointing to research that shows it can guarantee at least a 25 percent conversion rate.

    The placement of field labels is also an important consideration in form design. They are usually positioned above the corresponding field so that users can refer to them quickly. Labels can even go inside fields as ghost text in a lighter color to indicate what goes where as well as the required format, such as for phone numbers. For example, Moz’s mobile contact form has labels above each field as well as ghost text inside telling the user how to input information. The Details box says “Please write your question or a description of the problem you’re trying to solve here.”

    Avoid using Captcha

    Captcha form fields are designed to prevent spam form submissions. They usually require website visitors to answer a question, click on certain images or solve a math problem in order to submit a form. While captchas do a decent job of filtering out spam and thwarting bots, the general consensus is that they are annoying, especially on mobile devices.

    What’s more, captchas can have a negative impact on conversion rates. People do not like having to engage in an extra, seemingly unnecessary step when filling out a simple form. Captchas can sometimes take multiple attempts to complete successfully. Video-making app Animoto found that removing captcha from their forms led to a 33 percent growth in their conversion rates.

    The purpose of captchas is to provide security, which is undoubtedly important for building trust with prospective clients. However, there are other ways to address security concerns on mobile forms that are likely to be less frustrating for users.

    Some contact forms, such as WPForms, have built-in honeypot protection that uses invisible code to catch bots without inconveniencing users. Another alternative is Google’s reCAPTCHA, which asks people to simply click a button to identify themselves as human. Law firms have several options to consider for the security of their mobile contact forms.

    Make sure call to action buttons stand out

    Every contact form should end by encouraging website visitors to take an obvious action. For law firms, it generally involves providing users with a call-to-action (CTA) button that allows them to submit the information they have entered.

    All too often creating an easy-to-see, user-friendly button is an overlooked step in mobile contact form design. Clicking on a submission button after filling out a contact form is simple when you are using a regular computer. However, there are several issues that can crop up when attempting to do it on a mobile device.

    Make sure your CTA buttons are large enough for easy tapping on mobile devices. The text within the button should be clearly visible and tell the user exactly what is happening, such as Submit or Send. Avoid placing the button too close to other fields or elements. If the Send button is located right next to a Cancel button, there is a risk the user will tap the wrong one.

    Law firms can also use contrasting colors to highlight the CTA button. Bear in mind that while colors should pop out, they should also correspond to your website’s design and layout. For example, the contact form on PeopleMetrics.com ends with an orange CTA button that says Send Message.


    The color stands out from the form’s white background and the blue banner on top while still being on-brand for the company.

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    Any mention online regarding your business information is known as a local citation. Local citations are incredibly important for the success of your law firm’s website. Google uses the prominence and accuracy of local citations to determine which listing gets to show up on it’s “local 3-pack”, the map on search results that displays three listings. The map is generally shown above the organic listings and below the ads. This is why it’s essential that your business information is shown accurately and frequently on the Internet. Local citations will help determine your website’s visibility and online presence.

    What constitutes a local citation?

    As mentioned above, any information regarding your business can be considered a citation. Your business name, address and phone number (NAP) however, are the most important. At the very minimum, you should have your businesses’ NAP displayed on all prominent directories. Other information that can be helpful for your online presence are:

  • Business category
  • Hours of operation
  • Directions
  • Reviews
  • Email address
  •  

    You do not need your citations hyperlinked for them to apply, just having the information there is sufficient. A nofollow page with your business information on it still counts as a citation as well.

    Why are local citations important?

    Citations are important because they help search engines like Google or Bing authenticate the legality of your business. If prominent directories such as Yelp displays your business, and has the same information about your business as they do, it helps search engines determine if your business is legitimate.

    Another reason why accurate citations are important is because it’s a factor in Google’s search ranking algorithm. If your business information is unreliable, search engines will penalize your website. If your citations aren’t completely accurate, or there are inconsistencies in what your information states, such as a different phone number for different directories, you will be penalized. The reason being, if a user goes to your website and sees one number, then proceeds to a directory and sees a different number, they will be confused as to which is the correct number. Search engines recognize this, and will punish websites who do not have consistent citations.

    If you cannot decide the format your citations should be in, a good rule of thumb is: your citations across the Internet should be identical to what’s posted on your Google My Business listing.

    How could I improve my citation portfolio?

    Now that you know the importance of having accurate citations, the next step is populating the Internet with your citations. You probably already have a listing on Google My Business and Yelp at the very least. Find directories, general or legal-specific, and add your business to it. Sometimes, your listing is already on these directories, because these sites may use crawlers to gather information from search engines to add to their website. If that’s the case, simply claim the page, and update the information to make it as accurate as possible.

    You can also check to see where your competitors are going to boost their citation portfolio. WhiteSparks offers a tool called Local Citation Finder, which can help you determine where to add your citations based on your practice area keywords or your competitor’s business name.

    Dexter Tam is an Analyst at Custom Legal Marketing and is Google Partner Certified in Adwords.

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    Unlike many countries, the United States has no single, comprehensive law governing how businesses collect and use individuals’ personal data. As consumers become more aware of the extent to which businesses accumulate, buy, sell and share personal information, states are beginning to step in and pass their own regulations. How will this affect law firms?

    Major technology companies in the U.S. have enjoyed a business environment with relatively little regulation for decades, allowing them to flourish while establishing their own sets of rules about how their industry works. A lack of understanding about the details of tech giants’ products and practices, coupled with a fear of slowing one of the most successfully growing sectors in the economy, have made lawmakers reluctant to intervene.

    Plus, for most of their lifetimes, tech companies have been seen as the good guys — creators of wealth and opportunity with little downside. Only recently have people begun to seriously analyze the roles technology companies like Facebook and Google, which control over half the worldwide market in online advertising, play in society.

    The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed that personal information of up to 87 million people was mined for the purpose of influencing a presidential election, threw the issue of personal data privacy into the spotlight, revealing uncomfortable facts about how rampantly information is gathered and shared without users’ knowledge. Since the uproar, Congress has held hearings and Mark Zuckerberg has testified, but very little movement has occurred on nationwide personal data protection in America.

    More about privacy proposals before Congress: Can We Stop The Spread of Propaganda Online?

    The U.S. is unique among developed nations in its lack of attention to the protection of its citizens’ personal data. Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Data Act (PIPEDA) went into effect in April of 2000. Chile and Hungary have both had privacy laws in place since the 1990s. And the Philippines has a particularly strong set of rules, requiring those who collect personal data to get informed consent from users.

    These privacy laws define in various ways what constitutes personal data; describe how data can be collected, stored and processed; and establish consumers’ rights with relation to the use of their data.

    Perhaps the most well-known international privacy law is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect on May 25, 2018. The GDPR replaced the 1995 European Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC).

    In the U.S., some states are not waiting on the Congress to act. New York’s Cybersecurity Rules and Regulations (NYCRR 500), which govern data privacy in the financial sector, took effect in 2017. And California has recently passed a data privacy law that is being compared to GDPR. The California Consumer Privacy Act of (CCPA) was signed by Jerry Brown in 2018 and will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

    Most Americans are likely to be only indirectly aware of GDPR, and then only through the series of notices they received last year asking them to agree to updated privacy policies for online services. Law firms, however, had to be more cognizant of the regulations, as they define obligations for businesses that obtain or store or share personal data.

    The GDPR designates two types of entities that handle data: controllers and processors. Controllers own data, and processors process that data.

    Under GDPR, law firms are data controllers, as they are in possession of personal information, both for their clients and their employees. If a firm hires, for example, a payroll company, the payroll company would be a data processor. Companies that provide practice management software are also processors. Since requirements under GDPR are more stringent than those to be enacted under CCPA, it is likely that law firm practice management software companies are already in compliance. However, it is up to the data controller — the law firm — to do its due diligence and confirm third-party companies that process clients’ personal data are in compliance with both laws.

    What is the CCPA?

    The California Consumer Privacy Act was written and passed in response to a push by privacy activists who aimed to force a vote on new regulations through California’s ballot initiative process. Alastair Mactaggart, a real estate investor and leader of the movement, became interested in data privacy after a dinner during which a friend who was software engineer at Google told him that most Americans would be horrified if they knew the scope of the data Google had on them.

    Mactaggart began to research the issue and found that the success of Silicon Valley’s tech giants depended heavily on unfettered access to user data. He contacted a series of privacy experts to help determine the best way to regulate data use, and he and a team of volunteers managed to get enough support to place a data privacy law on the California ballot. Voters would have been asked to decide on the matter in the 2018 midterms. However, faced with the prospect that voters may approve a measure they had no say in crafting, the California legislature created and passed California’s privacy act, successfully shielding the issue from a popular vote.

    The CCPA lays out consumer rights and business and service provider responsibilities with respect to personal data. Specifically, the CCPA establishes:

    1. A right to disclosure: Consumers have the right to know what data a business collects, how it is used and whether it is sold. If data is sold, consumers have the right to information about the third party that receives the data.

    2. A right to opt-out: Consumers can forbid businesses from selling their data to third parties.

    3. A right to deletion, similar to the EU’s right to be forgotten.

    4. A right to equal pricing: Consumers cannot be charged more if they opt-out.

    Penalties for businesses who do not comply with the new law are up to $7500 per violation.

    The CCPA has the potential to establish protocols that will ultimately be adopted by other states, or the federal government. California prides itself on its regulatory innovation, and as the fifth largest economy in the world, it has the power to influence guidelines nationwide, whether lawmakers in other states like it or not.

    Comparing GDPR and CCPA

    The CCPA’s designations of “business” and “service provider” are similar to the GDPR’s definition of controllers and processors. Under the CCPA, a law firm that has possession of California residents’ personal data is a “business.” A third-party processor, like a payroll company, is a “service provider.” Both laws establish the obligations of businesses, controllers and processors. However, California’s privacy law differs from the GDPR in several meaningful ways, including the following.

    Physical scope: California’s law applies to controllers that “do business in the State of California,” regardless of location, if they process California residents’ data. Similarly, EU’s law applies to entities established in the EU, or those that control or process the data of EU residents.

    Threshold: To be designated a business under the CCPA, a company must be for-profit, meet a baseline revenue amount, use data for commercial purposes and be in possession of the data of at least 50,000 Californians.

    Opt-in v. opt-out: A notable difference between the CCPA and many national privacy laws is whether users must opt-in or opt-out of having their data shared. The CCPA allows users to opt-out of having data shared or sold; by default, users are opted-in. GDPR, in contrast, requires user consent to be “freely-given, specific, informed and revocable.” Users must explicitly opt-in to having personal data shared.

    Internal and external use of data: One of the biggest differences between the two laws is how they treat data processing. Under the GDPR, data processing is only allowed if it meets one of six lawful standards. Additionally, one entity can be both a controller and processor.

    The CCPA assumes most data processing is legal. Therefore, while users can opt-out of having personal data sold to a third-party, they have very little control over what a company does internally with their data. This distinction is likely why the legislation was able to be passed without major objections from Silicon Valley.

    This is also why, as Wired Magazine argues, the CCPA will have little effect on a large company like Facebook. Facebook uses personal data to target ads, but it does this almost entirely internally — very little data is shared with advertisers. Since processing data internally is legal, most users won’t notice a difference. Companies who will get hit are smaller, third-party vendors that do the middle man work of selling user data.

    Personal data: The CCPA has an expansive view of personal data. Personal data can be any information that “identifies, relates to, describes, is capable of being associated with, or could reasonably be linked, directly or indirectly, with a particular consumer or household.” This includes things like an IP address in addition to more obvious facts like an address or phone number.

    Right of action: The CCPA does not establish a right to sue companies that misuse data, except in the case of data breaches. GDPR gives users a right to sue in both EU and U.S. courts.

    How can law firms prepare for a new wave of privacy laws?

    For now, if your firm is not doing business with residents of the EU or California, you do not need to immediately worry about compliance with either law. However, the trend in the U.S. and worldwide is toward more protection for personal data privacy. Other states may adopt similar laws. If enough states choose to act, the federal government may be forced to reconcile the patchwork of regulations with a new set of standards.

    Take these steps to ensure your firm is compliant now and into the future:

    1. Evaluate your collection and storage of all personal data, including that of clients, attorneys and staff. Banking records, addresses, emails, phone numbers — all of these are examples of personal data subject to both GDPR and CCPA.

    2. Assess how this data moves within your firm and for what purpose.

    • How is personal data used?
    • What is your data flow?
    • Are you sharing data with any third parties? Do you, for example, have practice management software that stores user data?
    • Make a list of third-party data processors

    3. Establish opt-in and opt-out protocols.

    • How do you establish consent for collecting data?
    • What options do clients have for opting-out of having their data shared?

    4. Evaluate your privacy policies

    • What are your current privacy practices?
    • What mechanisms do you have for sharing privacy policies?

    5. Evaluate your data security practices.

    6. Establish a data management hierarchy.

    • Determine who within the firm is responsible for making decisions about privacy and personal data.
    • Determine who is responsible for overseeing third-party vendors.

    Knowing where you stand with your data use and management is the first step in ensuring quick compliance should new laws be passed. It is also a best practice that will help prevent costly breaches — good for your clients and your firm.

    Kristen Friend is a 1999 graduate of Indiana University, with Bachelors Degrees in both journalism and religious studies. In 2003, she graduated from the International Academy of Design. She is a contributor to the Bigger Law Firm magazine, and is the Art Director for Adviatech (Custom Legal Marketing's parent company). When she isn't making law firms look their best, Kristen can be found hiking up Mt. Tamalpais or inventing gluten free baking recipes.
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    WordPress, a content-management system with a market share of 59.6 percent and used by 32.5 percent of all websites, unveiled their new update on December 6, WordPress 5.0. The most significant change is the implementation of Gutenberg, a block-based editor. Prior to Gutenberg’s roll-out, the default content editor was straightforward but rudimentary, it is not as intricate as Gutenberg. HTML codes had to be added for everything in order to get the required functionality. With Gutenberg, post and page building have gotten more immersive. Now, there are blocks specific for content, embedding, layouts, formatting and more. You simply add the desired block as you go down your page or post. Your old posts and pages that were created with the classic editor are not affected by WordPress 5.0; you can still make changes to them using Gutenberg.

    For law firms looking to create landing pages or blog posts with rich content, Gutenberg is a welcome change. Previously, if you wanted to create a page with functions such as slideshows, background images or responsive capabilities, you would need a developer to insert codes into your pages. Now, anyone in your staff can perform these tasks with Gutenberg. As time passes with Gutenberg being the default content editor, more plugin developers will create features that will benefit your law practice.

    Another capability found in Gutenberg that will benefit your law firm is its ability to save blocks, known as reusable blocks, for future use. There are some sections on a page that would be beneficial and relevant to any page, regardless of content or practice area. Testimonials, results, awards and accolades can make or break a user from calling your law office or submitting a form and warrant inclusion on every page of your law firm website. The next time you create a page, you can easily input these reusable blocks onto the page you are working on, without the hassle of adding the code to every new page.

    With WordPress Gutenberg, content marketing has become simpler than ever to succeed and do well in.

    If you are not a fan of Gutenberg, it is still possible to go back to the previous editor. To do that, you will need to install the Classic Editor plugin.

    It is important to note that this plugin, if used, will conceal the capabilities offered with Gutenberg for the page/post you have decided to use the classic editor for.

    Dexter Tam is an Analyst at Custom Legal Marketing and is Google Partner Certified in Adwords.

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    Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google code project that helps websites load quickly. AMP accomplishes its hyper-fast load times by employing a stripped-down version of HTML; a limited, Google-approved Javascript library; and caching.

    This means that in order to use AMP, you need to create an alternate version of your website that conforms to AMP’s standards. WordPress plugins exist to help law firms that use the WordPress platform accomplish this.

    Typically, an AMP-optimized page will have a separate url, like: www.lawexample.com/page/amp. You could, in theory, use the same address and replace your site with an AMP-optimized site, however, its features would be severely limited.

    Google claims that AMP exists to help enhance mobile user experience by serving streamlined pages that load almost instantly. And AMP does accomplish its quick load time goals. Critics, however, claim Google is not maintaining AMP protocols for purely benevolent purposes. By controlling both the language used to write code and the method by which websites are served, Google is claiming even more dominance over the way everyone uses the internet.

    Loading pages

    Before you see a web page, a plethora of things need to happen. Code is parsed, scripts are loaded and elements are fetched, ideally all in a matter of milliseconds. There are two aspects to this process:

    1.DOM ready time: Before any page elements, like images, can load,the browser has to receive and parse the HTML code. The time it takes for the browser to receive and parse the code is the DOM ready time.This includes the time it takes the browser to receive information from your servers and from external servers.

    2. Full-page load time: The full-page load time is the time it takes everything on a page — CSS, images, fonts, etc. — to load. Most users say they will click away from a page if it does not load in three seconds.

    These load times will be nearly imperceptible to users on AMP-optimized sites.

    What does AMP change about your pages?

    AMP HTML: AMP HTML is a subset of HTML that includes some AMP-specific tags. It restricts the types of tags that can be used to create website code.

    AMP JS: AMP JS is a Javascript library that is strictly limited to a few custom tags that help control how page elements are rendered.Since Javascript often slows page loading, this protocol is extremely effective.

    AMP Cache: The cache is the most significant change to the way sites are served, and it is the object of much ire from AMP critics. A large reason AMP pages are able to load so quickly is that users are seeing cached pages. Your AMP pages are not being loaded from your server; they are being hosted on Google’s AMP Cache servers. Google has confirmed that AMP content cannot appear in prioritized results unless it is served through Google’s cache.

    Responsive web design vs AMP

    Responsive web design is the practice of using CSS to automatically adjust a website for maximum functionality across devices. With responsive webdesign, images and text will adjust to fit the users’ screens,whether they are using a smartphone or desktop. Responsive design also allows you to hide or show content on certain devices, or to change the way page features function, to maximize user experience.

    Responsive web design has long been Google’s preferred choice for serving pages on mobile devices. On its developer blog, Google states that responsive design both makes it easier for people to share and link to your content, and for Google to correctly index it.

    There are two big differences between an AMP-optimized site and a site that uses responsive design. First, an AMP site is a stripped-down version of the original site, often one that sits on a separate url. A responsive website is just your site; it will adjust to any screen size using the same url without the need to load a separate AMP-optimized mobile site. And a responsive site can use any HTML you choose. You are not limited to Google’s AMP library.

    Also, AMP sites are cached by Google and are being served by Google,whereas a responsive site is being delivered to visitors from your host. If you are using AMP, all of your content is running through Google’s servers.

    A primary goal of responsive web design is flexibility, while the primary goal of AMP is speed. Both aim to make mobile user experience better.

    Benefits of using AMP

    AMP’s primary advantage is speed, which can lead to positive SEO results. The pros of using AMP include:

    1.Faster loading times: The AMP project does accomplish its goal of making the mobile web faster. If you take the time to create an AMP-optimized site, your mobile pages will load extremely quickly.AMP sites will almost always load more quickly than sites that are designed responsively.

    2.Priority in mobile results: Google places AMP content in a featured carousel at the top of mobile search results. If you do not optimize your site according to AMP standards, your pages will not be given preferential treatment to appear in the mobile search carousel.

    3.Potential increase in traffic to AMP articles: According to one Google case study, Slate experienced a 44 percent jump in monthly unique visitors through Google searches after adopting AMP. You could also see an increase in mobile traffic if you are able to get your pages displayed at the top of mobile results.

    Criticisms of AMP

    AMP’s speed comes at a cost, which some website owners find outweighs the benefits. Following the AMP protocol forces developers to make decisions they may not otherwise make. Some of the cons of using AMP include:

    AMP is not easy to implement: According to Google’s AMP design principles, developers should always “do what’s best for the end user experience, even if it means that it’s harder for the page creator to build or for the library developer to implement.” AMP’s focus is entirely on the end user, making it difficult to adopt for those not familiar with HTML and CSS.

    Branding can suffer: Most AMP-optimized articles look the same. You have few opportunities to brand your pages because of the limited code.You will lose any of the uniqueness you have built into your website design on AMP pages.

    Google recently rolled out AMP Stories, which allows publishers to create more immersive articles that include full screen graphics and interactive features. This is an attractive product because it helps publishers create more visually compelling articles. However, Stories must also be built through Google’s platform, with the graphic capabilities its developers have chosen.

    Conversion rates: While AMP-optimization can help increase traffic, it may not have the same effect on conversion rates. AMP’s limited functionality does not work well with forms, hindering an important lead-generation tool. Additionally, AMP takes visitors away from your hosted site onto pages served from Google’s cache, and may decrease the time visitors spend on your site.

    Google is changing the way the web works: Some critical of the AMP project believe it should be killed because of the influence it gives Google over how sites function. Google is controlling what code is used, and it is controlling how that code is served.

    Traditionally, before the AMP project, Google’s bots crawled the web and indexed pages, then Google’s search results directed users to pages on other websites, hosted by other servers. However, if someone lands on your AMP page through a Google search, then shares the link, that link will point to Google. It’s url will not be www.lawexample.com/page/amp, for example. It will instead be google.com/amp/lawexample.com/page/amp. Rather than directing people out, to sites across the web, Google is directing people in, to pages on its servers.

    Should law firms create AMP sites?

    The AMP project has clear benefits for publishers that produce large amounts of content daily. News organizations that vie for the top spot in mobile results minute-by-minute can benefit from the increased exposure and traffic.

    Law firms that rely on conversions and lead-generation a different category of website owners. While they benefit from increased traffic, visitors are only good for the bottom line to the extent that they are interested in the firm’s services. Proper optimization of a responsive site can help pages load quickly while creating an unified experience for all users on all devices. Responsively designed pages will not be as fast as AMP pages, but they may be fast enough, given the downfalls of the AMP platform.

    AMP optimization may work for a narrow set of law firms that frequently publish content. Others should focus on directing traffic to a fast,responsive site that delivers a positive, consistent, branded experience to all users.

    Kristen Friend is a 1999 graduate of Indiana University, with Bachelors Degrees in both journalism and religious studies. In 2003, she graduated from the International Academy of Design. She is a contributor to the Bigger Law Firm magazine, and is the Art Director for Adviatech (Custom Legal Marketing's parent company). When she isn't making law firms look their best, Kristen can be found hiking up Mt. Tamalpais or inventing gluten free baking recipes.
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