Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Website Design and Marketing for Attorneys, Doctors, and Other Professionals

Below are some questions many clients have when they first contact Foster Web Marketing about the online marketing world.

The questions below may address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find your answers here, you should contact us for answers to any questions specific to your firm.

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  • What topics should I write about for my estate planning website?

    Content-packed websites are a great solution for estate planning attorneys because there is often so much information to communicate to your clients and potential clients. Featuring a mix of in-depth educational content, quick answers, and interesting guidance actually saves you time in the long run, while still helping engage and convert the people who visit your site.

    At Foster Web Marketing, we are big believers in planning out content strategies ahead of time. When you have a content plan, you have a roadmap that will help you cover all the most important topics in ways that make sense for you and your website’s users. Whether you are building up all your content from scratch with a new website or just auditing an older site’s content, here are some suggestions for topics that will help you accomplish your goals.

    Step One: Cover All the Basics

    Your first priority is to provide basic top-level content targeted toward your perfect clients. This means providing answers to the most basic questions that they may have about who you are, what you can do for them, and what they can expect from you.

    Think about this content as the “bones” of your site. What kinds of information do you expect to see on an estate planning website? What are the most common questions you hear from clients? What kinds of general information would be helpful to link back to when you need to talk about more complicated or specific issues?

    Not sure what we mean? Here is an example of what a plan for top-level topics on an estate planning website might look like:

    • Wills. What is a will? What are the types of wills? Can my spouse and I draft a joint will? What happens if you die without a will? How can I execute a will? How should I pick an executor? What does an executor do?
    • Advance directives. What is a durable power of attorney and who should hold mine? What is a living will? What is a health care proxy? Do I need a DNR (do not resuscitate) order?
    • Trusts. What is a trust? What are the types of trusts? What are the benefits of a trust? Do I need a trust if I have a will? What do I need to know before naming a trustee? Do trustees need attorneys?
    • Special needs trusts. What is a special needs trust? What should I consider if my adult child needs a guardian? Can I use a special needs trust for a spouse with special needs?
    • Gifts. What is the maximum gift I can give without being taxed? How does the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act work? What is the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act?
    • Probate. What is probate? How long does probate take in your state?
    • Litigation. How can I challenge a will? Who can challenge a will? What can I do if I have been unintentionally left out of a loved one’s will? How do courts decide on ambiguous wording in a will?
    • Estate taxes. When is an estate taxed? What is the generation-skipping transfer tax? What is a step-up in basis?
    • General. Why should I work with an estate planner? What is the fee arrangement? What documents do I need to bring to our meeting?

    As you can see, we’ve first broken our ideas into major topic areas, then into questions that can be answered in individual articles under the major topic. To apply this method to your own website, sit down and determine your major topic areas, then write out the kinds of questions you need to answer. Plan articles that will answer each of those questions, and schedule them on your content calendar.

    Don’t worry if it takes months to create and publish everything you need at this stage because the investment is worth the timeline. Ultimately, all of this is “evergreen” content that will be useful and relevant on your site for years to come.

    Step Two: Give Them Something Extra

    Once the basic topics are established, you can do a little research to further flesh out your content.

    One great way to do this is to do a Google search for a generic term related to your practice, like “estate planning law.” This gives you several options for developing topics. First, you can look at competitors’ sites that rank highly and see what kinds of content they currently offer, as well as what more education-based sites (like Wikipedia) might have to offer when your potential clients perform a search. Google also gives you several options for digging deeper right on the search page.

    First, you will see a “People Also Ask” box on the search page:

    n search results, Google includes a list of questions other people have asked


    Second, you will see a “People Also Search For” box as you click through results:

    : Google also list similar terms used in searches


    Third, near the bottom of the results, you will see some suggested related searches:

    Finally, you are shown a list of similar search topics

    What all of that means is that, with a single Google search, you get essentially four different springboards for content ideas.

    Still Need Help Coming Up With Content Topics for Your Estate Planning Website?

    Ultimately, there are lots of ways to come up with new topics and ideas for content, and lots of those methods will work for anyone in any industry. Learn more about how to find topics for online content.

    Are you concerned about being able to do it all yourself? Do you need help planning a content strategy or writing online content to fit your perfect clients’ needs? You can always contact us today to talk about our coaching and content-writing services and how that might fit into your overall marketing plan.

  • How can you create effective subject lines for email marketing?

    It doesn’t matter how relevant and compelling your email content is if people aren’t opening your emails in the first place. Are your subject lines the problem?

    The subject line you choose for your email is one of the first things your audience will see as they scan through their inbox:

    How an email subject line appears in the reader’s inbox


    It’s also one of the first parts of your email you’re prompted to write when creating a new email campaign in DSS:

    DSS asks for a subject line when you create an email blast.


    Ultimately, subject lines are a key part of what captures attention, motivates people to open your email, and makes them want to learn more. They may only consist of five or ten words, but they are a powerful part of email marketing success!

    To make the most of it, every email you send out to your contact lists should feature a unique subject line that not only meets some basic functional guidelines, but also gives readers a reason to dig deeper.

    Basic Guidelines for Email Subject Lines

    Before we get to the fun part, let’s talk about some of the most basic guidelines for crafting an effective subject line:

    • Don’t use spammy words or punctuation. At best, anything in a subject line that sounds overly sales-y is likely to make you look untrustworthy. At worst, your email will be filtered out and marked as spam. Stay on the safe side by avoiding excessive punctuation, buzzwords like “free” or “guaranteed,” words in all caps, and anything else that might be read as dubious in your subject lines.
    • Keep it short. While opinions vary on exactly how long your subject lines should run, the consensus is that concise is typically better. Shorter email subject lines tend to be easier to scan and understand, so they’re more likely to grab readers’ attention. Plus, shorter subject lines are less likely to be weirdly truncated on mobile devices.
    • Experiment and evaluate. Email marketing lets you hone in on narrow target audiences that are highly specific to your goals, so it’s important to track and test different ideas until you hit the “sweet spot” for your perfect clients. You might try a few different subject lines for each email campaign, and then modify your strategy based on how your unique audiences react. Find out more about how to evaluate and optimize your email campaigns.

    Get Creative With a Simple Exercise for Compelling Subject Lines

    Once the basics are locked down, it’s time to think about what you can say—in just a few words—that will introduce your email content and compel readers to click.

    If you’re not sure how to get started, here’s a quick exercise that we recommend:

    • Open your favorite magazine, blog, or article site.
    • Write down a few headlines that jump out at you. For this example, let’s say you wrote down “The Secret History of the Vikings,” “Nine Disturbing Facts About Milk,” and “How to Choose the Best Running Shoes.”
    • Break each headline down into a formula. For example, “The Secret History of [Topic],” “[X] [Adjective] Facts About [Topic],” and “How to Choose the Best [Product or Service].”
    • Under each formula, construct a few potential subject lines based on your practice areas. For example, “The Secret History of Estate Planning,” “Five Honest Facts About Auto Accident Claims,” and “How to Choose the Best Treatment for Heel Spurs.”
    • Don’t be afraid to change things around or come up with your own formulas. In the end, you should have a great list of potential subject lines for your email campaigns!

     This exercise will definitely give you a good idea of current trends and general expectations, but it doesn’t have to be the limit of your creativity. Some other ideas for crafting subject lines might include:

    • Using questions. For example, “Do You Know Your Rights After an Accident?”
    • Highlighting deadlines. For example, “Last Chance to Sign Up!”
    • Offering a results-oriented preview. For example, “We Helped 43 Truckers Collect Unpaid Overtime”

    It’s okay to be creative and have a little fun with your subject lines, where appropriate. The most important thing is that you keep your audience in mind while creating them. Think about who you want to reach with your message. Think about what’s important to them and what motivates them. Always write subject lines that are meant to be read by real people.

    Do you need help writing stronger subject lines? Do you have questions about how to succeed with your email campaigns? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our marketing experts to talk about how we can help you optimize your email marketing success.

  • How can I use my website's content to build trust with potential clients?

    When potential clients search for an attorney or doctor online, they are usually confronted with a problem and confused about whom they can trust. That means that the content you choose to feature on your website—and how that content is presented—can have a big impact when someone needs your help.

    Does your content make you seem trustworthy? Are you offering what your potential clients need? Here’s how to make sure the content on your website is ready to make a positive impression.

    Trustworthy Online Content Brings Potential Clients Through Your Door

    Trust converts. Even Google has urged businesses to pay attention to what motivates potential clients when they search for answers online. If you are looking to establish your credibility and build trust with your online visitors, here are some things your online content should offer:

    • Helpful answers. Most of your potential clients will find you because they had a question and typed it into a search engine. Think about the most common questions you hear from new clients, and put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes. Create content that provides answers and points readers toward the next step. If you can provide helpful and relevant answers to their questions, then they will be more likely to trust you and turn to you for advice. You’ll also be more likely to show up in search results for people who need your help.
    • Relevant video. Don’t underestimate the power of video content! This is your chance to let clients know that you are a real human being who is available to them if they need help. Videos can do a lot to show clients what your brand is all about, who you are, and how you can help them solve their problems. With videos, you can get a lot across to viewers in a short amount of time, which is especially great for mobile users.
    • An idea of what to expect. Many potential clients who are facing legal or medical troubles are anxious about what to expect and how long it might be until they see some resolution. Offering this information up front can go a long way toward making your potential clients feel more comfortable and in control. Let them know what your first meeting might be like. Show photographs of your office and staff. Explain what they might need to bring with them or what they might be expected to do. Explain your payment policies. Let them know what kind of timeline to expect. Being straightforward and transparent with your potential clients from the start helps them feel at home and positions you as a trustworthy professional.
    • Prompt responses. You need to be quick to respond online because people won’t wait around. Your content pages should load quickly, both on desktop and mobile. If a current event or change in the law is making waves in your community, providing more information and immediate responses to questions can establish you as the authority to turn to with legal problems. If someone reaches out to you after reading your online content, you should be there to answer him. Let people know that you are paying attention and that you are there for them exactly when they need you.

    Finishing Touches That Keep Potential Clients Engaged and Coming Back for More

    How you present your content matters, too. Make sure that you write with the reader in mind. Make your content easy to scan and understand. Break up “text walls” with headlines and relevant images, and make sure everything looks great on the page. Your most important content should be easy to navigate to from your homepage, and it should also be easy to get to related content on your website. Overall, aim to create a positive user experience on your website that lets your potential clients know that you care about them.

    If you’re a DSS user, you’re probably already taking advantage of our sidebar modules that point readers toward relevant content. For example, if someone finds an article on your website about truck accidents, they’ll also see suggestions for related content:

    Sidebar modules suggest related content to the reader

    There are also several ways to include in-text links that point readers toward other information on your website that helps clarify or expand on the ideas you’ve presented:

    Links in the text or in a table can direct your audience to read deeply

    Connecting relevant content on your website helps establish your authority and lets readers know that you have much more to offer.

    The more you allay fears, show your human side, and demonstrate your expertise in your online content, the more likely it is that your potential clients will feel at ease and trust in your legitimacy. If you need help writing attorney website content that establishes your credibility, contact our digital content experts for guidance or sign up for a free marketing analysis.

     

  • How do I develop a digital content strategy?

    Stop writing online content just for content’s sake! You need a plan if you want to succeed.

    Google has been clear that it is looking for online content that is:

    • Useful and informative.
    • More valuable than the content on other sites.
    • Credible and high quality.
    • Engaging for readers.

    If you aren’t hitting the mark with your online content, then your search rankings will suffer. The good news is that you can avoid problems by planning a content strategy to help you better provide exactly what Google and your online audience want. Then, add an organized calendar that keeps you on track toward your content marketing goals. That’s it! You’re ready to create more effective content for the Web.

    What Is a Content Strategy?

    A content strategy is simply a plan for how and why your content will be created and managed.

    It may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. We like to break it down into a few simple steps so you can start laying the groundwork for your content strategy right away:

    • Identify your perfect client. What kinds of clients and cases are you trying to attract? Who is your target audience? If you aren’t sure who you’re writing for, you can’t create an effective strategy to attract them. Want to get started? Find out how to identify your perfect client.
    • Define your goals. Why are you creating content? What do you want to achieve? Some examples of common content goals include brand awareness, increasing traffic, generating leads, converting leads into clients, improving client retention, or driving new referrals. Putting a laser focus on your goals and your perfect client are the two most important things you can do for your marketing.
    • Develop list of topics. The topics that you write about should be important to you and your perfect client. Think about common questions and things you’d like your potential clients to know before they meet with you. Not sure where to get ideas? Find out how to find topics for online content.
    • Document your strategy. Write down your goals, topic ideas, and vision of your perfect client or clients. Keep an ongoing content calendar—we’ll walk you through that below—to help keep you on track. Check your progress by gathering and analyzing hard data on content performance. As you continue to plan ahead and adjust your content strategy, this kind of documentation will be worth its weight in gold.

    Once you know what you want to achieve and why, it’s time to create a content calendar to make it all happen.

    How to Create a Content Calendar to Support Your Digital Content Strategy

    We recommend that you start by developing a three-month content strategy and creating a content calendar that contains all this information in one place. To help you get started, here’s an example content calendar for a personal injury attorney:

    A content calendar allows you to plan your content strategy for months ahead

    Having a pre-planned content calendar lets everyone on your team know what’s happening and when. It helps keep you organized and focused, and it streamlines the content creation process. The bonus is that it’s also easy to go back and see what you’ve covered in the past and what you need to do in the future.

    You content calendar should include:

    • Monthly topic themes. Choose one or more general or “big picture” topics to focus on for each month of the plan, which you’ll support with more focused individual pieces. You should also choose an appropriate call to action to use throughout the month to help encourage your readers to take the next step.
    • A list of individual content pieces to support monthly topics. Variety is the spice of your online content marketing. Keep your readers engaged by creating different types of content that support your monthly theme. Decide how many pieces of content you’d like to create each month, and come up with detailed topics for each one. Along with your blog posts and website articles, you should also include a plan for any other content you plan to create during the month, such as email or print newsletters, drip campaigns, email blasts, and guest posts.
    • Planned publish dates. Decide on publication dates for each piece of your content. We recommend that you schedule content evenly throughout the month so that you are consistently releasing new content and encouraging repeat visits. This is also the time to determine if and when your content will be shared on social media sites.

    Once you have a strategy and calendar in place, it’s time to start writing. Be sure that you always aim to write original, interesting content that you’d want to read if you were in your potential clients’ shoes. Don’t forget to proofread and edit your content before publishing to the Web!

    Do you need help planning or creating online content that will wow your perfect client and boost your success? Start by signing up for a free marketing analysis that will help you identify what’s working, what’s not, and how to create a better strategy for the future.

  • How should I update my marketing in 2018?

    What’s Your Online Marketing Strategy for the New Year?Online marketing has changed a lot over the years, and those changes can happen fast. Are you ready for a fresh perspective? With the start of the new year, here are the three things to do that we believe will have the biggest impact on your online success in 2018.

    Marketing to Your Perfect Client

    Over the past few years, Google has set the pace for marketers to get back to the basics with their online marketing. It’s no longer about attempting to “game the system.” Instead, Google urges marketers to create websites, content, and ads that speak directly to the people they want to attract. Everything you do should be helpful and relevant to your perfect clients. While keywords and behind-the-scenes SEO still play a part, all the content you create should be created with your audience firmly in mind. From meeting your clients in online “micro moments” to creating targeted ads on social media, it’s all about knowing your audience and delivering something that will wow them.

    Your current and potential clients should be impressed everywhere they run into you online. It’s up to you to create the content they want to see and to deliver that information quickly, conveniently, and smoothly. In practical terms, achieving this goal might mean updating your website to current standards, developing a stronger content strategy, changing up your paid ads, or simply spending some extra time meditating on exactly who your perfect clients are and how to reach them better. If you aim to deliver a perfect customer experience and user experience online, you’ll ultimately get more mileage out of your digital marketing dollars.

    Marketing to Local Audiences

    Google has put more emphasis on local SEO over the last few years, and we expect to see that trend continue. In fact, Google has been making a lot of adjustments to local search recently. With those changes, we've seen some clients suffer from not being in their target area in Google's eyes, so they aren't showing up as often in local packs. This is definitely something to keep an eye on over the next year. Local results will likely continue to grow in relevance and popularity, especially as mobile traffic continues to increase online.

    Need a refresher on local SEO basics? Find out more about how to improve your performance in local search.

    Marketing to Mobile Audiences

    Mobile was important last year, and it’s going to be even more important this year. If we’ve learned anything at all about digital marketing in the last few years, it’s that mobile is here to stay. In terms of specifics, we believe it will be important to continue to emphasize mobile-first development. The AMP Project, an open-source initiative that aims to provide faster and better online performance across all devices, will be a part of this. Our goal is to roll out AMP across the board in 2018.

    That’s not the only reason mobile search is important, though. Google also rewards mobile-friendly sites with better search rankings. It all ties back into providing a seamless and convenient user experience for your target audiences. Whether they choose to interact with business online via desktop computer or mobile smartphone, they are looking for a consistently excellent experience. If your mobile site doesn’t work right or is difficult to use, they will tap away to competitors who can give them what they want.

    Online mobile technology is moving fast. If we haven't updated your mobile site in the last year or two, it could probably use an overhaul. Reach out to us for a free website analysis with our experts, and let’s talk about what it will take to update your mobile functionality and improve your website for better leads and more conversions in the new year.

  • What is the difference between hard and soft 404 errors?

    Difference between hard and soft 404 errorsSometimes, old or outdated pages on your website need to go. Deleting stale web pages or content is just part of regular maintenance, but deleting a page leaves a void on your site—and you need to take the steps to let Google and other search engines know if the content is really gone, or it has just moved. This is why it is so important to understand the different between “hard” and “soft” 404 errors.

    Wait a Minute: What Is a 404 Error?

    When a searcher tries to open a page on your website that no longer exists, your site generally reacts two ways: by displaying a generic or custom “Page Not Found” page and by returning an HTTP response code 404 from your server that indicates the page isn’t there. While the reader may be satisfied with the displayed message or a redirect to other content, the crawlers from Google and other search engines depend on the code returned from your server to determine if there is content on the page that should be indexed.

    Why the Difference Between Hard and Soft 404 Errors Matters to You

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to delete pages. Although the difference may not seem that important, especially compared to content creation and your other marketing tasks, going the wrong route means that you’re essentially wasting Google’s time and taking some of the juice away from your real pages—the pages that feature unique information and core content.

    Think about it. Do you really want Google to continue to index a bunch of pages on your site that just say “File Not Found,” or would you rather let search engine crawlers focus on crawling your content that still exists?

    The Wrong Way: Soft 404 Errors

    Don't let the name fool you. Soft 404 errors are much harder on your website's visibility than a hard 404 error. A “soft” 404 error happens when the wrong code (often the 200 response code) is returned by your server when someone tries to access a page that no longer exists on your site. Even if your website displays an error page to the reader, it still needs to return the right error code to let search crawlers know to ignore the page. Or, you have deleted an old page and you redirected it to a new page that isn’t relevant to what the original content was on the old page.

    When your website’s server does not return a 404 code (or a 410 “Gone” code in some cases), search engine crawlers are essentially being told content does exist on that page, and will spend time attempting to index that “content.” If the number of soft 404 errors is high, especially in comparison to the number of “real” pages on your site, it can have a negative impact on your organic search performance. Google recommends using Fetch as Google or similar tools to verify whether a particular URL on your site is using the right HTTP response code.

    The Right Way: Hard 404 Errors

    When everything is working the right way, your reader will see an error page, and your server will return a 404 or 410 response code. This lets both readers and crawlers know that the page doesn’t exist anymore and shouldn’t be indexed,  and that page will be removed from search results over time.

    This means that the possibly limited time Google’s crawlers spend indexing your site can be concentrated on the pages you really want indexed—and it helps the crawlers better hone in on what your website is really about. And, by using a custom 404 error page or redirecting readers to other relevant and helpful content on your site, you basically eliminate the potential for problems when you remove a page.

    Solving the Problems With 404 Error Pages: The 301 Redirect

    At Foster Web Marketing, the confusion over soft and hard 404 errors is handled automatically for our clients in DSS. By using a 301 “permanent redirect” we essentially offer an easy way to direct users and crawlers away from a deleted page and toward an updated or similar page. In DSS, you can redirect pages automatically when you delete them. However, you still need to select the most relevant new page of information to send the old page traffic to, or you could still have issues with soft 404 errors. You don’t want to be in a situation where readers are directed to irrelevant pages that don’t answer their questions or where crawlers index the same page over and over again through removed pages. So, if you have content on your website that is not relevant to anything else on your site and you want to get rid of it please reach out to our customer service team to help you figure out the best course of action.

    Do you have questions about 404 errors, page redirects in DSS, or how Google indexes your website? Don’t hesitate to give our friendly SEO team a call at 888-886-0939.

  • Is the Cost of Zocdoc is Worthwhile for Doctors?

    Zocdoc was founded in 2007 in New York City. The first version of the now-popular website covered only doctors in NYC. Now, the online physician booking and review site covers every major city in the United States, and millions of people book appointments through the site each month. Zocdoc is one of our top six directory sites for doctors, but before you rush out and sign up, there are a few things you should know about the site.

    ZocDoc Logo

    How to Determine If the Cost of Zocdoc is Worthwhile for Your Medical Practice

    There is a fee to be listed as a Zocdoc doctor. Currently, Zocdoc charges doctors $300 a month to be listed. It is up to you to decide if the cost is worth the potential appointments you get. If you are considering signing up, be sure to do some research first.

    When deciding if your practice would benefit from being part of the service, you need to determine which—if any—doctors in your specialty and area are listed. You also want to note how many reviews they have. Doing so will give you a good idea whether the Zocdoc system is effectively filling the appointment book for your local competitors, and if you could benefit from joining suit.

    In general, we find that the doctors who benefit most from using Zocdoc are those in larger cities within a competitive market whose patients are between the ages of 18 and 35.

    How to Claim Your Zocdoc Profile

    It’s important that every profile you fill out is complete. However, on Zocdoc a robust, accurate profile is even more crucial. This is because people making appointments often have an urgent need; you’ll only get a minute, if that, to impress them. They are making a quick decision and will only choose you if your profile looks better, more complete and more professional than the other guy.

    Your first job is to ensure that every piece of information you enter is accurate, especially your name, address, and phone number. Known as N.A.P., these key fields must be correct not only on Zocdoc but identical every place you’re listed online. For more on this (and to find out how a dash instead of a period could mess up your online presence) read our article, “Be Consistent for Better Local Search Results.”

    Next, choose your profile picture. This should be a professional grade headshot, not a quick snapshot from your phone. After this is done, it’s time to strengthen your profile by adding additional images. All other images should be of your office, your staff, and any other high-quality images that will give potential patients a good feeling about your practice. Your goal is to show them just how professional, welcoming, and modern your office is.

    You also need to be thoughtful in the information you post about yourself and your practice. Remember that this is the patient’s first introduction to you, so keep it professional yet warm—and, as always, get someone to check your writing for spelling or grammar errors.

    Next, you’re going to have to decide how you want Zocdoc to book appointments for you. While doctors do this in different ways (such as updating open appointments daily) the easiest thing to do is sync your office’s appointment schedule with Zocdoc’s system. This way you offer patients the soonest possible appointment.

    How Reviews Work on Zocdoc

    Zocdoc has a unique review system: instead of anyone with a computer being able to write a review, only verified patients can leave reviews. This means no faking reviews and no random accidental reviews. They call this a “closed-loop” system. Also, unlike other review sites, you don’t have to do any legwork to get reviews (aside from being an awesome doctor with an amazing staff, of course). This is because Zocdoc does the asking for you, prompting patients to write a review after each of their appointments. This leads to a greater-than-average volume of reviews, a good thing for both you and would-be patients.

    How to Improve Your Rating on Zocdoc

    Since the review gathering process is out of your hands on this site, your only job is to do what we hope you’re doing anyway: offering excellent, on-time healthcare.

    The only other suggestion we have is to make good on the appointments you offer on Zocdoc. Not only can canceling or changing appointments garner bad reviews, it can get your Zocdoc account locked. So only list appointments which will you have reserved for Zocdoc referrals or link your appointment booking system directly to Zocdoc.

    Want More?

    Don’t miss a thing! Follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn for the most current advice on how to improve your medical marketing so that it finally put you ahead of your competition.

  • I may have been a little impolite when I began my practice’s social media outreach. How can I repair the poor customer relations label I’ve stuck on myself?

    Can you win back good will after your social media posts shock your readers?It’s remarkable how quickly one boorish social media post can ignite a “flame war.” Rather than embarrass one of our law firm or medical practice partners, let’s take an example from college sports. An exchange between rival fans might go like this:

    • Michigan Wolverines Official Site of Awesomeness: “Way to go U of M for your non-stop determination and drive. There’s definitely a reason we’re a Big 10.”
    • Buckeyesforlife83: what are you even talking about? Wolverines? You should be called the “Woeful Latrines.” #Ohiorules
    • MWOSA: We’re sorry you feel that way Buckeyesforlife83, obviously you’re confused on where you need to be. Go home and take your attitude with you.
    • Buckeyesforlife83: figures. You can’t even come up with a decent response. Just like a Michigander to take their ball and go home.
    • MWOSA: Whatever, at least we’re not from Ohio. Where do you think the toilet water goes—South. #mittenslap #FootballersGoHome-We’llTakeItFromHere

    Does this type of banter look familiar? How many times have you seen similar posts on the social media pages of friends and colleagues? How many times have you engaged in a similar (yet I’m sure more eloquent and grammatical) debate on your own site?

    Probably way more than you’d like to admit.

    Unfortunately, many businesses allow personal feelings and opinions to outweigh the purpose of their networking sites. As a professional, you don’t want to attract social miscreants to your site as if it were a cage match. Sure, your page’s popularity may increase as a result of curious readers coming to see what low blow you may deliver next, but they’re not going to respect you as a professional. If they can’t respect you, then they’re definitely not going to hire you, so what’s the point?

    Thankfully, even if your reputation may be tarnished from past posts, tweets, or memes, you can still dig yourself out of the rubble and rebuild a mature and successful social media platform for your businesses networking needs.

    The Tools to Rebuild Your Social Media Reputation

    Social media is an excellent way to promote yourself and your business. Unfortunately, it’s also an excellent vehicle to advertise your flaws. It isn’t as forgiving of the latter as it is of the former. It can be difficult to build your reputation as a smart and focused professional in a place where kitten videos and trolling are the norm. Thankfully, by knowing how to combat negative situations and baited comments, you can not only showcase your strengths, but also build a strong and supported networking platform for your business.

    Here are some ways to get you started on rebuilding an otherwise tarnished social media reputation:

    • Start fresh by refocusing on your ideal client. Making some questionable mistakes in the past doesn’t mean you need to continue upsetting or belittling your viewers. Take a step back and focus your social media encounters on those you want to help. By streamlining your focus, you’ll not only speak to your target audience but you’ll minimize the risk that unwanted viewers will leave negative comments.
    • Stay calm. The odd negative response or poor review is bound to occur—don’t let it get to you. The fastest way to ruin your reputation is by addressing a problem when you’re ill-prepared. Take a moment to calm down before you decide how to approach the situation or comment.
    • Respond positively. When and if you choose to respond to a negative remark, do so politely. Although this may be difficult, stooping to a Neanderthal level of namecalling and insults will only hurt you; you’ll give other readers the impression that you can’t be professional when confronted. However, if you take the high road and simply thank the negative commenter for taking the time to write, you’ll showcase your maturity…with the added bonus of preventing the curmudgeon from baiting you further.
    • Use hashtags judiciously. When you choose to hashtag (#) a phrase or word, make sure that tag doesn’t mean something disrespectful. Otherwise, you’ll end up looking insensitive, cruel, or out-of-touch.
    • Use information, not threats, to encourage likes and shares. When you include informative and entertaining content on your site, viewers will naturally like and share it. There’s no need to bait “likes” and “shares” by deceptively promising good fortune or threatening bad luck. Stand behind your content and trust your viewers to know what they like and what they don’t like

    Wrecking Balls: Actions to Avoid

    As long as you stay calm and positive when maintaining your social media sites, then successfully rebuilding your reputation should only be a matter of time. However, one false-sounding comment or ill-conceived post can reversing your progress. This is why it’s important not only to know what to do, but also what not to do. When updating your posts or checking your tweets, stay away from these common faux pas:

    • Piggybacking on negative news. Stay away from using someone else’s tragedy as a way to promote yourself. For example, refrain from posting a story about a celebrity’s car accident with the remark, “He’ll be needing help from us.” Not only is this tactless, but it could also snarl you in legal trouble.
    • Falling for the baited troll post. You need to remember that a lot of people on social media have way too much time on their hands. Many of them pass their time by “trolling” websites—posting outrageous comments in the hope of starting a fight. Don’t encourage this practice. If someone leaves a ridiculous comment or opinion, either ignore it or politely respond; anything else is just a disaster waiting to happen.
    • Edgy humor. Although you should try to add appropriate wit and humor throughout your website and posts, make sure you stay mature and respectful. Everyone has their own trigger points. If you’re unsure of whether a joke goes too far, it probably crosses the line for some of your readers. Use a different joke instead.
    • Shaming potential clients. Everyone has the right to his own opinion and the right to express that opinion. Although sometimes you may not agree with a comment, you need to respect the exercise of free expression. Refrain from belittling reader or starting a fight just because you disagree.

    Above all, don’t try to turn negatives into positives; looking on the bright side of things is a useful tool, but should not be used to call extra attention negative comments. If you’re getting a lot of negative remarks or disinterest, don’t point that out to future clients. Instead, root out the problem and fix it. Once fixed, you can then politely draw attention to the fact that you were made aware of the issue and had the good grace and ability to right the wrong.

    Sailing the seas of social media can be a perilous journey. We’d be happy to help you navigate those treacherous waters. Contact our social media marketing team at 866-460-3724, and let us map you out a course to the destination you desire.

  • Does the domain extension for my website affect my search engine rankings?

    Choosing the wrong top-level domain name can put your site at a disadvantage.Domain extensions can be helpful in giving consumers basic information about a website, such as .gov for municipal sites and .edu for online homes of schools and universities. However, there is no ranking benefit for using .edu over a .com—and Google won’t be handing out any bonus points for newly-minted domain extensions, either.

    You may remember from our previous blog posts on domain extensions that many new domain extensions are becoming available. In addition to .com, .gov, .org, and .edu, we may soon see .app, .radio, .help, and nearly any other extension imaginable. These new extensions are called Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs).

    Google has recently confirmed that websites with new gTLDs will be evaluated based on the same geo-targeting settings as other sites, and will not be given any more or less weight when the search engine crawls, indexes, or ranks URLs. In short, using a new gTLD will not give your website any advantage in search results.

    How Can I Be Sure My Domain Name Isn’t Working Against My Marketing Strategy?

    As long as all domain extensions are treated equally by search engines, businesses have the freedom to choose and create a domain that best fits their brand. The SEO strategists at Foster Web Marketing can help you find the domain extension that makes the most sense for your long-term goals. Call us today at 866-460-3724 to find out which domain names and extensions would be best for you, or browse through our links to learn more about how to apply search engine optimization to your website.

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