Why I don’t obsess over SEO

I take a rather relaxed approach to SEO. I pay attention to a few things like using keywords, but not at the expense of good writing, and by that, I mean writing that informs, persuades, inspires, and (at times) entertains.

I don’t study search engine optimization. I don’t hire consultants. And I don’t spend time contorting my posts to conform to arcane rules of the day.

Why?

First, I hate this kind of stuff. It’s boring. And frustrating. One day it’s this way, next week it’s something else.

Second, I don’t need to. Google is smarter than I am and they always find a way to figure out what I’m saying and who should read it. What they want more than anything is well-written, high quality information, and that’s what I try to give them.

A recent article over at the SearchEnginePeople.com blog, about five common SEO misconceptions, agrees that quality is king.

My favorite misconception is, “every headline needs a keyword.” I like this because I do try to include a well-searched keyword phrase in most of my headlines, but frankly, it often ruins an otherwise compelling headline.

Apparently, I can loosen up on the reins a bit. “If you can add a niche keyword in there, then all the better but don’t make that the be all and end all of your headline writing… A captivating headline brings click-throughs, links social shares and more traffic.”

There is a trade-off between being found (keywords) and being clicked (benefit rich headline). Apparently, if we write clickable headlines and high quality copy, Google will send us people who want to read it.

Content marketing for attorneys: click here

Here’s a topic for your newsletter or blog

I just updated my privacy settings on Google. They were going to use my name and face in ads. Now they can’t. It was easy. Here’s how to update your Google settings.

Next, Facebook. Last time I checked, my settings allowed anyone to post updates on the front lawn of my house. Or something like that.

By the way, if you know how to turn off all game invitations, could you do me a solid and let me know?

Anyway, privacy is a hot topic today, and your clients want to know what you think and even more, what you advise. If you’re looking for a topic for your newsletter or blog, something that will get opened and read and appreciated (and bring you some search traffic, too), this is it.

What are the current laws? What needs to be changed? What can people do to protect themselves?

Do you have an opinion on Snowden, the NSA, or The Patriot Act? Have we gone too far in the name of stopping terrorism or is our lack of privacy a necessary evil?

You don’t have to take a position if you don’t want to. You could present both sides and let your readers decide. Or, you could come out with both barrels blazing and get people fired up.

At the very least, pass along to your readers some basic information about how to update their settings, as I did at the top of this article. Of course changing settings doesn’t really protect you from much of anything. It just makes us feel a little less powerless than we really are.

Get hundreds of ideas for your blog or newsletter with this.

The truth about duplicate content in blog posts and newsletter articles

I used to worry about duplicate content in my posts. I didn’t want to repeat myself. I thought people would notice. “Wassup, you wrote about that six months ago. Out of ideas already? Wimp!”

Now I know that most people don’t notice and don’t care.

But even if they do notice, it doesn’t matter. What I write today will be different because I’m a different person today. I have different experiences to draw on. I’ll use different words and different examples.

You’re different, too. You’re not the same person you were six months ago. Your experiences give you a different context within which to receive my words. You will notice things you missed before. Ideas that weren’t important to you before will take on new significance.

My audience is different, too. Every day, new subscribers join my list and read my posts for the first time.

And good ideas bear repeating. I never stop reminding you to stay in touch with your clients. Even though you know you should do this, I’ll bet hearing it again helps.

So don’t worry about writing things you wrote before. It’s probably a good thing because you’re writing about something important.

No, Google won’t penalize you for duplicate content. Google’s Matt Cutts says, “I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”

When you write as much as I do, you’re bound to re-visit old ideas. You can create new content by updating or expanding old posts, but if you wind up writing the same thing you wrote before, it’s okay. Somebody needs to hear it, or hear it again.

Need help with creating content for your blog or newsletter? Click here. 

If my cat managed your law firm

They say that dogs think of you as a member of their family and cats think of you as their employee. Our Tuxedo cat, Seamus, agrees. (He told me to keep this post short and get my ass back to work.)

Anyway, if Seamus was managing your law firm, I imagine he would tell you not to sweat the details. “Take care of the basics,” he would say, “and everything will be fine.”

For Seamus, the basics (that we are required to supply) are food and water, a clean litter box, and some play time. He takes care of grooming, sleeping, and staring out the window. If the basics are taken care of, Seamus is happy, although he has put in a request for more of that laser light thingie.

What are the basics in managing a law firm? Well, you need clients so marketing would have to be at the top of the list. You need some staff to help you because doing everything yourself is not a smart use of your time. And you need some tools: a computer, phone, and access to a library. Of course I am assuming you have the knowledge and skills to take these resources and put them to work for you.

Seamus says humans spend too much time fussing with little things. You don’t have to read everything, know everything, or do everything. Just cover the basics. Time management? That’s for sissies, he says. There’s plenty of time for the important things, as long as you cover the basics.

You can run a multi-million dollar practice with only the basics. And still have time to play with your cat.

Seamus says you need clients and recommends The Attorney Marketing Formula.

Getting started with mind maps for notes, outlines, and brainstorming

Mind maps are a non-linear method of organizing information. I use them to take notes, to create outlines for presentations and projects, and to brainstorm ideas. If you have not used them, I suggest you take a look at this excellent overview.

I usually create mind maps on paper. I grab a legal pad and put the basic idea in the middle. As ideas come to me, I quickly add them as branches and sub-branches. In a minute or two, I can outline a complete presentation or project.

As the overview clearly shows, the advantage to the mind map is that it allows you to capture ideas as they occur to you, “out of order” so to speak, which is how the mind works. One idea leads to another and that leads to another, and so on, which is very different from the linear outlines we’re so used to. Once you have captured those ideas, however, it’s easy to re-write them into a formal outline.

I also use mind map software. Freemind is simple and easy to use and, well, free. There are many other choices. I don’t use the software often, but I do use it for bigger projects.

I’ve downloaded a few mind map apps on my iPhone but find them difficult to use. The “canvas” is too small, at least for me, and I find myself spending too much time working with the app rather than capturing ideas. Some apps do integrate with their desktop counterparts, however, so you could create the mind map on your computer and view it on your mobile device.

Some people create very detailed mind maps, with many sub-branches. They might outline an entire book (or legal case) on a large white board or fill several pages in a notebook. I usually keep things simple, using the map to get a general picture, but I have also used them to outline bigger projects.

If you’ve never tried a mind map you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are they a practical way to discover and capture information you may otherwise overlook, they are a lot of fun.

I used mind maps to outline portions of The Attorney Marketing Formula. If you want to see how my mind works, download a copy today.

Is your law firm listed on Yelp? You might be getting reviews and not know it

When my wife is checking out a new restaurant or other local business, she often checks the reviews on Yelp. If they have a poor rating she usually moves on. She may also use Yelp’s directory to find businesses in our area. She found a great auto service business that way and we’re very happy with them.

If you target consumers or small businesses, prospective clients may be checking you out on Yelp. If you have a listing, it’s one more place people searching for an attorney can find you.

The thing is, clients can post a review about you even if you don’t have a listing. You might want to do a search and see if anyone has. While you’re there, create an account so that you can post your details and contact information. This article points you in the right direction.

Once you have an account, you can add your photo, additional details, and special offers (i.e., a coupon, a free report or video, etc.). You can engage with people who post reviews.

The listing is free and it’s easy to set up an account so there’s really no reason not to. Tell your (satisfied) clients to post their reviews. You may or may not get new clients from the directory, but if anyone hears about you somewhere else and goes to check you out on Yelp, you’ll be ready.

Are you listed on Yelp? Have you gotten clients from your listing? Let me know in the comments.

Selling legal services like Apple sells iPhones

I went to the Apple store this weekend. As you can imagine, it was packed, buzzing with people who were playing with iPads and Airs and Macs. They were asking about the new iPhone 5. And they were buying.

After the Apple store, I went to a Windows store on the same floor of the mall. Like the Apple store, it was spacious and nicely laid out. There were lots of toys to play with and friendly employees to answer your questions. But unlike the Apple store, there were very few customers. The store was almost empty.

Why the difference?

Nobody needs an Apple product. Everything you need in a computer or tablet or phone you can get from another company, usually for less. So why is Apple poised to become the first trillion dollar company in history?

Marketing.

Apple knows that people buy what they want, not what they need, and so Apple doesn’t spend time talking about how their products are better or that over time, you’ll save money buying a Mac versus a PC. They don’t say Apple is safer or has a shorter learning curve or make a fuss about the quality of their customer service. They know these things are important and they don’t ignore them, but they also know that these aren’t why people buy Apple.

People buy Apple because it’s cool.

But legal services aren’t cool. Nobody stands in line at the door of a law office. This is why Apple is about to become the first trillion dollar company and your firm isn’t.

But you can learn something from Apple and apply it to your marketing.

Apple doesn’t try to convince people they need a computer, a smart phone or tablet. They target people who are already looking for a computer, a smart phone, or tablet. They appeal to people who want the “best” (coolest) and are willing to pay for it.

You should do the same.

Focus on people who know they need a lawyer and are trying to choose the right one. Focus on clients who want the “best” and are willing to pay for it.

Yes, you can also educate your market as to why they need the type of legal services you offer, but spend most of your time and energy on the low hanging fruit: the ones who know they need help and are ready to get it.

Then, show them why they should choose you. Give them all of the reasons. Show them why you are the Apple of legal services. They may not stand in line outside your office but they will want what you offer and pay top dollar to get it.

Want to know how to get clients to choose you? Read The Attorney Marketing Formula and find out.

4 tools for finding ideas and content for blogs, articles, and presentations

How do I create content that will rank well and bring me traffic? What are my prospects searching for? What should I write about?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, help is on the way. I just discovered 4 tools for finding out what people are looking for (aka, what people want to read), generating ideas for content, or fleshing out content you’re already working on.

I know I’m going to be spending some time playing around with these. (After I’ve updated to iOS 6, of course).

Check out the post on this page for a description of these 4 tools.

I don’t spend much time on SEO. Frankly, the whole subject is daunting. But I do pay attention to writing content that people want to read and I am always looking for ideas. That’s why these tools are helpful.

If you have used these tools, or others like them, please let us know in the comments.

Find out how to earn more than you ever thought possible. Download The Attorney Marketing Formula.

The Harley-Davidson of law practices

Seth Godin pointed out that it is more profitable to be #1 in a small market than number three in a larger market.

I agree.

He says the market leader sets the agenda and attracts the leading customers.

That’s true.

He says that Harley-Davidson isn’t #1 for all motorcycles but they are clearly #1 in their category.

Yes they are. They have a very loyal following and get lots of word of mouth referrals (or maybe that should be “word of ear” referrals).

There is great wisdom in this concept. I followed this in my practice where I targeted a small niche market, I preach it daily in my private consulting, and I write about it extensively in my new course, The Attorney Marketing Formula.

Let others fight over the mass market while you go fishing in a small(er) pond. Marketing is easier, the clients are better, the profits are greater.

As Godin points out, by redefining your focus and the way you serve your clients, you redefine (and come to own) your market.

As attorneys, it’s easy to stroke our chins, nod our heads, and say, “yes, this is truth.” But most attorneys go right back to swimming in the vast “mass market” ocean. Sadly, most attorneys will never come close to being #3, or even #333 in the mass market. But they could easily be #1 in a smaller market.

Yesterday I corresponded with an attorney who told me he is struggling to find a good niche market. I pointed out that in his email, he mentioned that his practice served many same sex couples and that this is a niche market.

By networking with other professionals and businesses owners who target that market, by working deeply in that market, he could become #1 in that market for his practice area.

Then he could afford a fleet of HOGS.

Why a detailed outline may not save time in writing

I just read an article that says you can write faster if you do a complete outline before you begin. I say that’s not always true, at least for me.

The author says a simple outline might be a series of questions–who, what, where, why, and when. A complete outline will answer those questions. With the questions and answers in hand, logically organized, you will have enough material to write faster than you would with just a simple outline.

Basically, she recommends thinking through what you want to say before you say it.

That’s often good advice. But sometimes, it’s not.

This blog post is a good example. I started with the idea that I wanted to say something about outlining, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. It wasn’t until I started writing that I could see what I thought.

When you don’t know what you want to say, rather than forcing yourself to think it through, (a very left-brained process), just start writing. Let the right side of your brain, your creative mind, tell you what you think. It’s called freewriting. Just start typing or moving your hand across the page and see what comes out.

That’s how I wrote this post.

If you do know what you want to say, sometimes a short outline is all you need. That’s what I use for most of my blog posts. I jot down four or five points I want to cover and get started. It wouldn’t be worth it to take the time to create a detailed outline, nor do I believe it would make for better writing.

What takes the most time is crafting the opening and ending. You’ve got to get the reader’s attention and leave them with a memorable twist or marching orders. You can’t outline these. I often re-write openings and endings several times in order to get them right.

For longer writing, a detailed outline makes sense, and sometimes I use them. But sometimes, longer writing is nothing more than a collection of shorter writing and a detailed outline isn’t needed.

I just completed a new course and I did create an outline. Some parts were very detailed. Others were very brief. What I found is that the writing I wound up with is very different from the writing I imagined (and outlined) when I started.

Writing is like that sometimes. A creative journey. No maps, no GPS. You just fill up the tank, and go.