Video Transcription:

My name is Andrew Stickel, and I partnered with lawyer.com to bring you this free guide – “How to Hire an Internet Marketing Company For Your Law Firm and Hold Them Accountable.”

I’m sure that you already know that all of the law firms that are at the top of the Google search results aren’t necessarily the best lawyers. Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good lawyer and appear at the top of the Google search results, but what that does mean is that those law firms typically have a very high quality, high skilled internet marketing company. Hiring the right internet marketing company for your law firm can absolutely make or break your firm. However, a bad company can absolutely destroy any traffic that you’re already getting.

Lawyers are constantly bombarded by marketing emails all day long. All of them say that get you guaranteed leads. They all say they can get you the first page of Google. They all say they have the ‘secret sauce’. Yet I talk to law firms all the time that are on their fourth, fifth and even sixth marketing company. The reality is that while there are a lot of internet marketing companies out there just selling snake oil, there are a lot of good companies out there as well that are worth hiring.

The question is – how do you identify a good company vs. a phony?

The answer’s pretty simple. You ask them questions, you vet them really well, and you hold them accountable. In this video, you’ll learn which questions to ask an internet marketing company to help you determine if they’re the right company for your firm. If you’ve already hired an internet marketing company for your firm, don’t worry. This video will still help you understand what to look for and how to hold them accountable.

Question number one – Can I have a discount?

One thing to remember is that a top-notch internet marketing company will never offer discounts, really because they don’t have to. If you’re looking for a bargain, odds are you’ll only find companies that’ll promise the moon but will eventually end up hurting your website in the long run. However, high prices aren’t an airtight indicator of high quality work either. So ask the right questions and listen closely to their answers.

Question number two – What will you do to improve our firm’s Google rankings?

A marketing company is going to have some type of strategy to optimize your website for Google. That program will almost always include a strategy of building backlinks from other websites to your website. That’s because backlinks are still a very important part of Google’s algorithm. It’s critical that you have high quality backlinks going to your website.

However, not all backlinks are created equal. This means that you need to ask good questions about the types of backlinks the company intends to build. One really good strategy is outreach linking. During an outreach campaign, the company will manually reach out to the other blogs and websites in an effort to get them to link to your website.

Sometimes this is done by searching in Google and just sending a cold email. Other times it’s done by using pre-existing relationships. Outreach is a time-consuming, difficult and expensive process, and that’s why a lot of the best search engine optimization companies aren’t cheap. However, this method absolutely creates backlinks that Google loves.

Some companies don’t want to go through the trouble of manually building backlinks, so they automate the process. This can result in hundreds of low-quality backlinks that have no value to Google or any other search engine. These backlinks are the search engine equivalent of spam, and they could get you penalized if they’re not used properly.

If a company’s strategy involves building many automated links in a short period of time, this could be a sign of trouble. It’s likely a sign that they can’t make a meaningful impact on your Google rankings, so you should probably take a pass.

Now, outreach links are not the only types of links that you use in a search engine optimization campaign, but the thing you want to focus on is quality over quantity. Ask them about the quality of the links that they plan to build and how they plan to protect you from Google penalties.

Question number three – Can you give me information about previous clients and what you’ve done for them?

Hiring an internet marketing company is no different than hiring a contractor to do work on your house. Any good contractor is happy to show you testimonials from satisfied customers. He’ll also point you to online reviews and show samples of successful projects that he’s completed in the past. A good internet marketing company should be willing to do the same. If the company can’t or won’t give proof of work that they’ve done in the past and has a track record of satisfied clients, it’s definitely a red flag.

It usually means they’re lying about their level of expertise, their experience, or both. In this case, you don’t want them anywhere near your website. It’s also a good idea to ask the company how long they’ve been with their oldest client. If that marketing company is helping the firm grow, that firm will, in general, want to retain the marketing company month after month and year after year.

Shady marketing companies are hit and run operations and don’t have long-term clients. They often use short-term SEO tactics that in the long run do more harm than good. This means they won’t be able to point to examples of long-term, highly satisfied clients.

Question number four – Do you follow Google’s guidelines, and do you keep up with algorithm updates?

This is a tricky one because technically if you’re doing anything to manipulate your rankings, it could be considered against Google’s guidelines. However, there’s a very fine line between white hat, black hat and grey hat which is a mixture of the two. In general, Google’s looking for websites that have high quality unique content. Google also says that if you build high quality websites with great content, that you don’t need SEO, you’ll just rank naturally. Like a lot of things, that’s not true.

Often, websites need some help to get there, and that’s where search engine optimization comes in. Any good marketing company is going to have a very good understanding of the Google guidelines.

They’re going to know how far they can push the envelope and they’re going to be in control of the campaign the entire time. They should be intimately familiar with the Google algorithm updates, so that their clients can take advantage of all the latest updates, while avoiding any of the negative consequences. There have been many Google algorithm updates over the years, but the two most popular are Panda and Penguin. Panda was designed to prevent websites with poor quality content from finding their way to the top of the search results. Penguin was designed to catch websites that were artificially inflating their rankings using spammy websites.

The internet marketing company should understand how to avoid being penalized by both algorithms, as well as some of the other exotic algorithms such as Pigeon, Hummingbird, Fred and others. So, when you’re interviewing a potential internet marketing company, ask them how they follow the guidelines and how they keep track of the updates. Ask them how they optimize websites that take advantage of the updates. If they can’t give you a satisfactory answer, then it’s time to move on.

Question number five – What type of optimization will you do?

There’s typically three types of optimization. Technical optimization, on-site optimization, and off-site optimization. Technical SEO is typically a technical audit of the client’s website to figure out if there’s technical problems on the website that could be preventing the website from ranking in Google. Off-page SEO is focused on building links from authoritative, relevant websites to your website.

On-page SEO focuses on the content on your website; so making sure that it’s written properly and it’s not over-optimized, but it’s written in a way that Google’s algorithm is going to like it. A good internet marketing company should be able to discuss the details of all three of these strategies with your firm.

Question number six – Do you guarantee us a number one ranking on Google?

This is a trick question that will help you separate the fly-by-night organizations from the actual legitimate marketing companies. No one can guarantee you the number one rank on Google; and here is why. No marketing company or marketer knows the exact Google algorithm. In a recent quarter, Google has revenues exceeding 22 billion dollars. Most of this revenue was generated from search.

So, you can see why they’d want to protect their algorithms so closely. One of the key components to the algorithm is called RankBrain. It’s built on Machine Learning which is similar to Artificial Intelligence. The engineers that coded it admit that they don’t even quite understand how it’s ranking websites anymore. So if the engineers that built it don’t understand it, how can anyone else? On average, Google makes more than five hundred changes to their algorithm every year. Some of them are major changes and some of them are small changes, and only Google knows when an algorithm change is coming.

In SEO, things change very quickly and make it very difficult to guarantee anything. If guarantees are being made, it’s time to end the interview. The only exception to this rule is for extremely easy keywords such as your brand name.

Another tactic to watch out for is no upfront fees, and you only pay when you get page one results. Many lawyers think this sounds great. They do the work and if it doesn’t work, you don’t pay. What they don’t tell you is what they are probably planning to do is likely extremely spammy, and could absolutely harm your website. If by some chance what they do does work temporarily, it likely won’t last and will often end up with you being worse off than you are now.

Question number seven – What’s your procedure for keeping us in the loop about activity and results?

You and the company should meet on a regular basis to discuss all activity as well as the results that you’re seeing on your end. My company, Social Firestarter, meets monthly with every single one of our clients. We discuss what we’ve done, we discuss what we plan to, and then we discuss the results that the client’s seeing on their end. You should always be kept in the loop and meet regularly with the marketing company. This way, you know exactly what they’re doing and they can track your results. If the company’s not willing to meet with you on a regular basis, then they don’t want you to know what they’re doing and that’s not a good sign.

Question number eight – What happens if we terminate services?

Most internet marketing companies want a contract for their services, and it makes sense because a lot of work goes in upfront and often search engine optimization doesn’t happen right away. Almost all internet marketing companies that are worth their salt will require at least a six-month and often a year contract.

This is because there’s a lot of work that happens at the beginning of a campaign, and often, it takes a few months for the results to kick in. That said, at the end of the term you might want to end your contract and find a new marketing company. It’s important that you understand what will happen should things go south with the company that you’re working with.

Be sure to find out what the termination policy is, how you get your content at the end of the contract and if there’s any termination clauses in the contract. Be sure to find out what the procedure is for winding down your relationship with the company should you want to cancel. Also, find out about any early termination clauses in the contract. Lastly, make sure that you own the website, the content and all of the images on the website. Otherwise, you could leave with nothing.

Question number nine – How do you fix penalized websites?

As we discussed, Google is constantly making changes to their algorithm, and this can sometimes result in a penalized website, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Google is a monolithic entity. They take results based on the good of the overall algorithm, rather than individual websites. An established marketing company likely has experience recovering penalized websites.

So, it’s critical that they have this experience and they understand how to do it, because even if you’ve done nothing wrong, your website could still get hit by a penalty, mistakes happen, or sometimes you just have bad luck and get hit by a Google algorithm update. It’s important that you have an internet marketing company that knows how to diagnose and fix a penalty should one occur. Find out what procedures the company takes to resuscitate penalized sites and find out what they do to prevent future penalties.

Question number ten – What metrics do you use to determine success?

You’re hiring an internet marketing company to improve your bottom line. Therefore, it’s important to understand which metrics this company’s going to use to determine their own success. Although they may consider an increase in traffic or ranking success, you’re looking to grow your business, and the only thing that matters is money.

While an increase in traffic and rankings is great, those two metrics alone do not put money in the bank. What it’s about is leads and phone calls. A good marketing company will look at ROI and conversions as their metric for success. For example, my company, Social Firestarter, measures success by ROI, phone calls, and new cases.

Question number eleven – Why should I hire your marketing company over another marketing company?

This is another question designed to identify the low-quality companies. What you’re looking for are deal breaking answers, such as: “We’re cheaper than the competition,” “We guarantee number rankings,” “We can get you thousands of backlinks,” “We get results faster than anyone else.” A good marketing company will answer this question by pointing out their past accomplishments and their list of satisfied clients.

Question number twelve – What platform will my website be built in?

I prefer websites built in WordPress, as it’s the most user-friendly content management system on the market. While WordPress isn’t the end-all-be-all, the thing you want to avoid is a proprietary platform that’s specific to that internet marketing company.

If you’re forced to use a proprietary system and then later decide to leave that company, you’ll be forced to start with a brand new website, or they’ll send you the files that you’ll have to send to a coder to actually re-build the website, and it’s an absolute nightmare.

Question number thirteen – What happens if we don’t see results?

So, here is the God’s honest truth. You may hire the best SEO company on the market, they may do a phenomenal job, and you still don’t get results. Unfortunately, that’s how SEO is sometimes. There is a randomness factor to Google that can’t be controlled, and it’s ridiculously frustrating, trust me, I know first-hand!

Should this happen though, you need to know how the company plans to handle it. Ask them what they’ve done in the past when their best efforts haven’t gone to plan. Ask them if they’re willing to supplement with pay per click if needed. Maybe they can help you with other forms of lead generation while they’re still building your SEO. The key to this question is you want them to acknowledge that sometimes SEO just doesn’t work, but they have a plan for when things go wrong.

So, in conclusion, keep in mind that your website and search engine optimization is a long-term investment in the future profitability of your law firm. There are no quick fixes or instant results. It can take months for a marketing strategy to show that it works, or that it doesn’t work. This is the reason there are so many sub-par marketing companies out there because they can go undetected for so long, and you will find out that they’ve been blowing smoke this entire time until you’ve lost a lot of time and a lot of money.

However, if you follow this guide you should be able to identify a high-quality marketing company. If you have questions about hiring an internet marketing company, leave them in the comments below and be sure to join the official Lawyer Marketing Facebook Group. All you have to do is go to Facebook and search Lawyer Marketing in the search bar.