Arizona Attorney Magazine, November 2015Bending Toward Justice” was the headline for our November cover story of Arizona Attorney Magazine. We thought it was an ideal combination of lawyers practicing yoga and one of the most evocative quotes of the civil rights era.

The full quote from which we drew the concept is, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

Do you recall who said it, and when? (I’ll tell you at the bottom of this post.)

In the meantime, I’ve noted before how yoga has made legal news this fall. So maybe I was just primed for the topic when I opened Google this week to the animated image of a man bending into a yoga pose.

yoga bks-iyengars-97th-birthday-5749978756546560-5758531089203200-ror

Yes, there are more.

yoga Google 2 unnamed

yoga Google 3 unnamedTurns out, those Google staffers were noting what would have been the 97th birthday of B.K.S. Iyengar, “the founder of the style of yoga known as ‘Iyengar Yoga’ and was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world.”

Curious, I asked Wikipedia about him:

“He was the author of many books on yoga practice and philosophy including Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and Light on Life. Iyengar was one of the earliest students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is often referred to as ‘the father of modern yoga.’ He has been credited with popularizing yoga, first in India and then around the world.”

More detail on this remarkable man is here.

And our quote about the arc of justice?

If you said it comes from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., you would be correct. He spoke the moving words in August 1967 when he addressed the Southern Christian Fellowship Conference.

But extra points go to you if you recall that Reverend King was paraphrasing American Transcendentalist Theodore Parker, who lived before the Civil War and who “predicted the inevitable success of the abolitionist cause” this way:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

I hope in this, the stirring month of December, you exercise your power and skill in the effort to bend toward justice.

Cybersleuth Guide to Internet Levitt RoschTomorrow, October 9, the State Bar is holding a seminar that may help you navigate the Internet in service of client and law practice.

I rarely mention State Bar CLEs, as their own marketing machine is pretty darn robust. But I am intrigued by this offering, which will be taught by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch. (See more about them and their work here.) If those names sound familiar, it’s because they wrote a book on the subject. (Read down below to see how your CLE registration also gets you a copy of the book.)

The seminar is titled “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet: Super Search Engine Strategies and Investigative Research.” A long title, but they plan to cover quite a bit. Here’s the description:

“Learn how the Internet is changing the way legal professionals need to research and run their practice to competently represent their clients. Find out if failing to ‘Google’ as part of the due diligence process could keep you from winning a case or successfully completing a transaction. Uncover the best research strategies and learn to master Google. Discover how attorneys are using free public record sites and sites with free ‘publicly available’ information, including social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google Plus, and LinkedIn) for discovery, trial preparation, background checks, and locating missing persons.”

Carole A Levitt

Carole Levitt

Mark E Rosch

Mark Rosch

“Don’t be left behind in exploiting this gold mine of information that will assist you in meeting your investigative research obligations. Come join Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch, internationally recognized Internet trainers and authors of six American Bar Association books, who will show you how to be a cybersleuth to unearth information FREE (or at low cost!) on the Net. Each attendee will receive a copy of their 500 page book, The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet, 12th edition revised (2013)—a $64.95 value.”        

Intrigued? Here’s where you can register.

And you can read more about the book here.

google logo law gavelThe power of the Internet to transform business has been revolutionary. And in that transformation, Google and its functionality have been leading change-agents.

Attorneys—already occupied by the law and business sides of their work—likely scratch their heads at the possibility of being “found” by anyone among Google’s billions of bits and bytes. That’s why I was pleased to hear from Texas attorney Scott Morgan, who offered a primer on the topic of getting found in Google search (more about Scott follows his great post; I’m also pleased to note that he’s a prolific blogger). And if you thought you already understood Google’s algorithm before, read on, because the math of search has changed.

Here is Scott:

For many law firms, the Internet, and particularly Google, has developed over the last several years into their primary source of new clients. Many law firms use pay per click advertising (PPC) as a way to rent online real estate for important keyword phrases. Other law firms use search engine optimization (SEO) as a way to get in front of those same searchers without having to pay every time they click.

While SEO sounds great in theory, the reality is that it is extremely changing and, as we will discuss below, constantly changing. This article will discuss how Google results for local attorney phrases have dramatically changed over the past year and what law firms can do to best position themselves.

Google’s Search Results—A Brief History

Our analysis begins with a comparison of what a Google search results page for a local phrase such as “Phoenix divorce lawyer” looks like currently as compared to as recent as 2012.  Since I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of an old results page back, I will have to replicate it by using a phrase that won’t trigger Google’s “localization” of the results. It actually took some work to find an appropriate phrase, but eventually I came across “Phoenix divorce property division,” which looked like the old-style results.

As shown in the picture below, the results basically had some paid ads at the top and right sidebar, but the rest of the page was just the 10 highest-ranking organic results for the phrase. Under the old system, the key to ranking highly for almost any particular phrase was to get lots and lots of links pointing to your site with anchor text (the words that are in the link) that either exactly matched or were close to matching the phrase you’re trying to rank highly for.

Google search results for "Phoenix divorce property division."

Google search results for “Phoenix divorce property division.”

So if you were trying to rank for “Phoenix divorce lawyer,” you would get links pointing to your site with that anchor text, ideally from other highly ranked sites, preferably in the legal niche. Many professional SEO firms made a lot of money by promising (and occasionally delivering) to get lawyer websites to the top of the rankings for their desired keywords using just this strategy. While certain types of links became more and less effective with Google over the years, it was still a relatively straightforward process to get a website to rank for a particular keyword phrase.

Fast Forward to the Present

Let’s now take a look at how the Google results pages have changed over the past year using the keyword phrase “Phoenix divorce lawyer” (below).

Google search results for "Phoenix divorce lawyer."

Google search results for “Phoenix divorce lawyer.”

As you can see, the results still show PPC ads at the top and right side of the page. What is significantly different are the seven local listings that are blended in with the organic results. On this particular search there are actually three results that appear above the local listings. In many locations, the seven local listings appear above all the organic listings.

While at first blush this may seem like a relatively minor cosmetic change in the results, it is anything but. Here is the often misunderstood part of the new localization of the results: Google uses two separate algorithms to rank the local results and the organic results.

Texas attorney Scott Morgan

Attorney Scott Morgan

In other words, you could be the #1 ranking site in organic but not be found at all in the local listings. The end result of this change could have been that overnight you went from having the top listing for multiple client-generating keywords to being pushed all the way to the bottom of the page by the local listings, causing your traffic and potential client inquiries to slow from a flood to a trickle.

What Should Law Firms Do Now?

So the bottom line is that if law firms want to get in front of potential clients on Google result pages without having to resort to PPC, they will need to rank highly in the local listings. While this is no small task, given the amount of potential clients that a high ranking on a good keyword can generate, it is worth it to master this new area of SEO. Here are some basic things that you can do to improve your chances of your website being listed highly in local:

  • The very first thing you should do is claim your Google local listing. By claiming it you gain control over the content of the listing, including the basics such as your business name, address and telephone number, as well as more advanced features such as pictures, videos and periodic postings about your practice.
  • Many other websites have local listings, such as Yelp, Yahoo local, Bing Local, Yellowpages, and Localeze. You should claim these listings as well. Not only can it generate some website visitors for you but Google looks at these listings as a way to confirm the information on your Google local listing.
  • Work on getting your name, address and phone consistent across the Internet. This is probably the most common problem that websites have in getting good local rankings. If over the years you have moved your office once or twice or changed phone numbers, it is likely that the old data is floating around the Internet still. This will cause Google to have less confidence that the information they have for your business is accurate and will cause your local rankings to plummet.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into how the new Google results pages for lawyer searches work and what you need to do to improve your chances of getting a steady flow of clients from this very valuable channel.

About the Author

When not obsessing about his firm’s search rankings, Scott Morgan is busy representing divorce clients in Texas. He is a board-certified family law attorney and founder of the Morgan Law Firm, which has offices in Sugar Land, Austin and Houston.

This past fall, we ran a wealth of information in Arizona Attorney Magazine on the topic of law office management—software, hardware and more.

One tool I considered (but left aside) for our content-review was a social media tool that has gotten a fair amount of ink lately: Google+.

I am curious how many lawyers have made the shift into Google+, and whether that meant giving up on another channel? For myself, I opted in, but I have done little with my presence in the past six months (sorry, My Circles).

Today, I’m pleased to offer a guest post that explores the upsides to Google+ for lawyers. It comes from Denver-based Colleen Harding (her complete bio follows her post below). You can reach Colleen at colleenaharding@gmail.com.

After reading her post, please let me (and her) know about your own experience with Google+. And now, Colleen:

How Attorneys Can Benefit the Most from Using Google+

6 helpful tips for optimizing your online, professional connections

Since the inception of Google+ in 2011, the fastest social networking platform community in history consists of approximately 25 million users—and continues to grow by about one million users per day. Similar to Facebook, the Google+ platform lets users share information to optimize each individual’s personalized search results.

What does Google+ mean for well-known U.S. law firms? This platform offers direct interaction with a target community of individuals who actually have interest in the products, services, and information provided by legal firms—as noted via Google places as well as their specific Google search results.

Google+ offers attorneys the following six benefits:

1. Real customer profiles

Like Facebook, the focus of Google+ is individual user profiles—in other words your online brand or presence. Well the great thing about Google+ is that it’s mandatory to register for your user profile using your real name—which means you know you are interacting with a true-to-life human being and not some made up pseudonym.

2. Managing Google+ Circles

Another great aspect of Google+ is that you can build your customized social network community via Circles or common relationship restrictions that allow you to add a contact, like on Facebook, without their acceptance of any requests. You can add a new contact to the following circles—Family, Friends, Acquaintances, and Work—and then manage those relationships more precisely via preferences (i.e., so work colleagues can’t see everything you post). This means Google+ is more versatile than other social networking communities so you simply drag contacts into one Circle or multiple Circles and you don’t have to worry about them seeing your personal interactions if you don’t want them to.

3. Information targeting

Again, similar to Facebook, with Google+ you can share status updates, photos, videos are more. However, you can set preferences so only certain circles can see certain content. For legal firms, you can share an article, for example, and precisely select the distribution Circle for your information, which means you specifically target only relevant users so your posts appears in their Google+ Stream for them to read, comment on, and share.

4. Custom news feeds

Google+ offers users the ability to bookmark custom news feeds on a particular individual, business, geographical location, or keyword topic—similar to preferences in Google News. The custom feeds, known as Sparks allows users to find interesting and relevant stories on their interest areas, for example, law, and the potential for viral sharing is a plus too.

5. Profile recommendations

Attorneys can recommend their own lawyer profiles, websites, or blogs by simply installing the Google+1 Button extension for the Google Chrome browser to help them grow their professional network

6. It’s easy to grow your professional Circles

Finding other lawyers and legal professionals to grow your Circles is extremely easy with Google+. The platform uses the powerful search capabilities of the larger search engine to help you connect with like-minded folks in your industry, collaborate, and share resources and professional recommendations.

About The Author

Colleen Harding is a staff writer for Bachus and Schanker in Denver on topics relating to employment, labor and state law. Her passion for the legal realm started with a job as a Legal Aid and continued when she accepted a role as a Human Resources Coordinator for a mid-sized U.S. manufacturing company. She is also a member of Amnesty International as well as an active volunteer in her community.

Let’s belly up to this story and announce what may be news to you: Today is National Pancake Day.

I know, I’m as amazed as anyone. It seems like just last week that I overindulged on this most hallowed of occasions.

Here is a link to IHOP’s shameless promotion of a day in honor of food in its own company name. But the parts of me that enjoy the tasty treat forgive them for their marketing sins.

And “sins” is what led to this post. For as I Googled “national pancake day,” what to my wondering eyes should appear?

There, number-3 in the Google search rankings, was a Wikipedia link on the topic of “Shrove Tuesday.”

As Wikipedia explains, that is the traditional term for the day preceding the start of the Catholic season of Lent: “The word shrove is the past participle of the English verb to shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance.”

Now Wikipedia has gone and bollixed up my pancakes with sin and absolution. But in the process, they have alerted me to my search-engine-optimization laziness.

Yes, that’s right. I—and probably many others—have left so many SEO ideas lying on the table. If proponents of shriving and absolution can spot the connection to pancakes, what should I be doing? I mean, I write about lawyers and judges every day. What possibilities lie in wait, if I were only to open my mind?!

In that spirit, I have tagged this post with the following additional terms: “mind-blowing,” “life-altering” and “SEO secrets.”

Fingers crossed as I pave a new SEO path.