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 are backlinks and how can they help my website rank better?
We will start with a basic definition of a backlink:
backlink: an incoming hyperlink from one page to another website.
Basically, a backlink is any link on another website that points to your website. Here is an example of a backlink for Best of the Web found on our website:
The words "Best of the Web" are highlighted in blue, and when the cursor hovers over them, they become underlined. This embedded link is known as a hyperlink. Hyperlinks can be internal—taking you to another page on the same site—or external—taking you to a page on another website. In the case of backlinks, the link is external, and the backlink on our site takes you to botw.org.
I am sure you have clicked on a link like this before; a link that took you to a website that explained a term or expanded upon an idea in the article. The link you clicked on to go to the explanation page was a backlink. These links often provide useful information and—as we will discuss in this article—can help improve your search engine ranking when done right.
Now that we’ve covered the backlink basics, we are going to dig a little deeper into this often-misunderstood topic. My goal is to arm you with the tools you need to not only get backlinks, but to get the best possible backlinks; those that help build your brand and increase your reach.
All Backlinks Are Not Created Equal
Backlinks are powerful. They can be used for good—helping your website achieve page one status—or they can be used for evil—as part of link-buying schemes that do nothing but cause harm. Next, we are going to explain both high and low-quality backlinks, and show you exactly how to get the type of backlinks that will improve the search engine ranking of your website.
What Constitutes a High-Quality Backlink?
The previous backlink example was intended to show you exactly how backlinks work. However, I’d also like to use it to illustrate the benefits of high-quality, ethically garnered backlinks. By linking to an external site, we have consented to give Best of the Web a bit of link juice. The more people that link to the Best of the Web site, the better it is for the site’s search engine ranking.
Since Foster Web Marketing is a reputable business that often writes about Web-related topics, and since our website isn't crammed full of other external links—a sure sign of a link farm—Google will view this backlink to Best of the Web as high-quality and, hopefully, reward the site for the backlink. This is exactly what you want for your site.
You want high-quality sites that contain a link that point back to your website. What this does is show Google that you are respected on the web and that people often link to you as an authority. But as you may have gathered, not all backlinks are equally beneficial. So to begin with, we need to discuss exactly what constitutes a high-quality backlink.
- A high-quality back link is one that:
- Is relevant to your niche.
- Is from a trusted website.
- Sends in referring traffic.
- Is embedded in the content of the site, not listed in a sidebar.
- Is not paid or reciprocal.
- Is located near other high-quality links.
- Is from a variety of sources—not 100 backlinks from one referring domain.
- Helps your page rank.
- Is hard to get.
That last one, "be hard to get," is the most important. Why? Because Google knows when you try to cheat the system—when you buy or trade backlinks. You may not get caught in a week, you may not even get caught in many months, but you will get caught. So, even though getting high-quality backlinks is a chore, it's one worth doing. Next, I’ll show you exactly how to get the kind of backlinks that you need to fully realize your SEO potential.
How to Get More High-Quality Backlinks
It's important you that you understand that backlinks are something to be earned, not bought. To get the kind of backlinks that will stand the test of time—Panda and Penguin be damned—you need a link-building strategy based on one concept: hard work. You don't simply "get" them by buying or trading for them, you earn them. Here's how.
The Wrong Way to Get Backlinks: Backlinks have long been an important part of a successful SEO strategy. They are so important that many website owners and shady SEO companies began buying into link-sharing and link-buying services. But, like any cheat, Google caught on and has been steadily de-indexing these services and blog networks.
And if you cheat, once Google catches onto your cheating ways, your website is going to be in a world of hurt. All of the good, honest, organic work you've done on your site will be lost. Your SEO ranking will plummet. Forget page one, you won't even be on page 21! That's how powerful backlinks are. They have such great potential to elevate your SEO game but, in the wrong hands, can decimate your SEO efforts.
Cheap, fly-by-night SEO companies will try to tell you that they can dramatically increase the number of links that point to your site, and they can. But they cheat. They pay for your site to be part of a shady linking scheme, like a private blog network. This may work for a time, and you may see your page rank improve greatly. But with Google, Bing, and Yahoo getting better at spotting cheaters, you are going to get caught.
And the SEO company you gave your money to and put your faith in? Will they help you out when your site tanks? No way. You've given them your money, and they are on to a new scheme—a new, get-links-quick trick that will work just long enough for them to get paid.
If it seems too good to be true, it is. Never forget that.
The Right Way to Get Backlinks: There is most definitely a right and a wrong way to get backlinks. The wrong way is easy to figure out: don't cheat. The right way is a little trickier, and like all natural, white-hat SEO strategies, it takes time and effort to get quality backlinks.
Here are five ways to get quality backlinks:
- Enlist the help of reputable directories. Put your name and information on high-quality, human-edited directories such as Best of the Web, Yahoo, dmoz.org, and lawyers.com. Having your link on these reputable sites will give you a few powerful backlinks. Tip: Although dmoz.org is a free site, you will have to pay to be listed on other quality directories. Before you pay to be listed on any site, ensure that it is a trustworthy site, is free from spam, and contains high-quality content. I want to stress that there are precious few directories that are worth your money, so choose with caution.
- Produce effective link bait. If you write and publish interesting, well-written, and timely content, you increase your chances of getting natural backlinks. This is because good content gets shared and linked to. Tip: To create tasty link bait, think hard about what clients and those in your field want to read about. Be sure your content is free of mistakes, easy to understand, and furthers your image as an expert in your field.
- Be a guest blogger. Guest blogging is a fantastic way to get quality backlinks. Just be sure that you never pay for a guest blogging opportunity. This is a big no-no. Tip: To become a guest blogger, be sure that you are involved with the targeted blog. Share interesting posts and comment when appropriate. You should basically "get to know" the blogger. And, as always, make every piece you write interesting, informative. and well-written. Matt Cutts wrote about how guest blogging is dead, but if you are doing it the right way this is still an acceptable practice.
- Get involved. Another way to earn high-quality backlinks is to get involved in your community. Often, when you give money or time to a charity, they will reward you with a thank you on their website. Sometimes there will be a link that points back to your site with the thank you; powerful! Also, ensure that you're listed with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. There is almost always a link on these sites. Tip: Our SEO team came up with a brilliant way to use community involvement to earn top notch, sustainable backlinks. Elsewhere on our site we discuss how we created this natural, sustainable link-building strategy using the charitable work our client has done.
- Link out. When you link out to other reputable websites within your field, you give their website a little boost, a little Google juice. And sometimes, they may give you some back. In this “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation, many people who have been linked to will return the favor and link back to your site. Tip: This reciprocal linking can be a good thing, as long as it’s done in moderation. What you don’t want to do is link out to hundreds of sites just for the sake of linking. If you do this you are not only giving away too much of your linking power, if many of the sites link back to you, Google could get suspicious and deindex your website—a death blow in many cases.
We've Got Your Back(Links)
Want to know if Google is punishing your site for bad backlinks? Then get your free site audit today. After we comb through your site, we will give you a full report, free of charge. What you choose to do from there and how you decide to go about fixing your site is up to you. We can help make the changes needed, or you can use the information we provide to make the changes yourself.
For more information about our full line of website services, or to ask specific questions about backlink strategies, call 888-886-0939 to speak with a member of our U.S.-based SEO team.
What is "pogo sticking" and what does it have to do with my website?
Many people think that bounce rate and pogo sticking are the same thing, but they aren't. I like to think of pogo sticking as bounce rate's devious cousin; they are related, but bounce rate is the one that will get you in the most hot water with the Internet's version of your mom: Google.
Definitions of Bounce Rate and Pogo Sticking
To understand pogo sticking, we need to understand the differences between bounce rate and pogo sticking:
- Bounce rate: Bounce rate is defined as "the percentage of visitors who visit a single page on a website." A high bounce rate isn't always bad, as it can mean that while the visitor didn't travel deeper into a site, he did spend some time on the page and get an answer to his question. He may have bookmarked the page or shared it on Facebook, but since he didn't read more, it constitutes a bounce.
- Pogo sticking: Pogo sticking occurs when a user performs a search, clicks on a result, very quickly clicks back to the search result page, and clicks on a different result. This type of behavior is a direct result of immediate dissatisfaction in the search result, and—unlike bounce rate—pogo sticking is always a bad thing.
The Dangers of Pogo Sticking
Google hates pogo sticking more than high bounce rates, as pogo sticking happens within the first five seconds of viewing the page. This indicates that your website isn't doing a good enough job of answering the questions people are asking or that the page was so bad they didn't even bother reading its content. If you have a lot of people pogo sticking on and off your site, Google will notice, and they will penalize you.
Common Causes of Pogo Sticking
Pogo sticking is caused by immediate dissatisfaction with some aspect of your website. But there are lots of things that could go wrong in those precious five seconds, so determining exactly what's wrong with any given page can be a challenge. To help you get to the bottom of the problem, here's a list of the most common causes of pogo sticking:
Content related causes:
- The content doesn't match the title or meta description. (Title promises: "The Scary Truth About Parking Lot Accidents and Children," but the article is about rollover accidents.)
- The content is spammy. (Title promises: "Five Tips to Winning Your Car Accident Case," but the article is one paragraph and has a keyword-stuffed call to action.)
- The content doesn't match the site's focus. (An article about gluten-free baking on an attorney's website.)
- The content is loaded with grammar and spelling mistakes.
Non-content related causes:
- Slow page loading time.
- Videos that auto-play.
- Too many pop-up windows.
- A confusing or outdated design.
- Lack of usability.
If you're concerned about your website's performance, we can help you determine exactly what's affecting its success.
We want to give you the tools you need to fix your site and exceed your goals so we recommend that you request your free website analysis and read our in-depth article on performing a content audit. These tools will cost you nothing, and could very well be the key to finally realizing your dream of running a highly successful business.
Is it a good idea to delete old content from my website?
Deleting old content is an excellent way to improve your site, boost your rankings and provide a better user experience—but only when done the right way.
Identifying Unwanted Content
Before you begin the deletion process you'll need to determine which pages need to go. This process can be daunting, but it's necessary to the success of your website clean-up efforts. Your first step is to identify all the pages on your site that haven't been viewed in a year or longer. Once you have your list of neglected content in hand, you'll have to decide if the content on the pages is worth saving or not.
In general, if a page hasn't been viewed in a year, if ever, it's a safe bet that nobody is ever going to need the information in the content. However, before you delete unviewed content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the information in the article relevant and timely?
- Is the content unique?
- Is it stuffed with keywords and little to no real information?
- Has it been modified before and still isn't performing well?
- Are page views extremely low?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is no, then it's probably a good idea to delete the page. But before you begin deleting left and right, know that there is a right and a wrong way to delete bad content. If you do it right, Google will reward you. If you do it wrong, your SEO rankings could take a serious hit.
The Proper Disposal of Unwanted Content
The most important thing to remember when deleting content is this: Never ever delete without implementing a 301 redirect. It doesn't matter if you don't think anyone will ever find the page, you must redirect traffic. Period! If you fail to do so, anyone who happens upon the deleted content will be shown a 404 error page. Now, 404 error pages don't just undermine confidence in your abilities; Google hates them. If you have too many 404 error pages your site will under perform.
If you're using DSS, implementing a 301 redirect is simple. We have built an automatic redirect into the page deletion process. This way you're reminded to pick a relevant page to redirect to each and every time you delete a page. If you're not a FWM client, then you'll need to get with your webmaster and ensure that each deleted page is properly redirected.
When redirecting, choose carefully. Proper redirection means linking the deleted page to the most relevant topic possible:
- First choice: Redirect to a relevant related page.
- Second choice: Redirect to a relevant practice area page.
- Third choice: Redirect to an associated overview page.
Under no circumstances should you link to your home page. Google doesn't like this and neither will website visitors. What they're looking for is information that answers their search query. So if they search for "Why my bunions hurt when it rains?" they should, at the very least, find information about painful bunions.
And one more thing: you'll need to repeat the 301 redirect process each time you delete a page. There is no quick fix here, no way to delete and redirect 10 pages at a time.
Is it Tedious to do a Content Audit? Yes. Worth the Effort? YES!
Don't let the process of identifying bad content and deleting it intimidate you. Deleting irrelevant, unviewed content may be painstaking, but it's pretty much guaranteed to boost your search engine rankings and improve user experience.
Just like all white hat, ethical SEO techniques, there is no silver bullet to ridding your site of old content. So dig in and get it done; the sooner the better! Once you have removed the bad content you should be left with only great content that attracts more business.
If you'd like help better understanding this process, call 888-886-0939.
I want to talk to potential clients in a way they understand. I prefer to write for my professional website in a relaxed, informal style. If I take that approach, I don’t have to obey all the fine points of grammar, do I?
You can choose not to pay attention to grammar. You can also choose not to have clients or customers. It turns out that, very often, those choices go hand in hand.
Of course you don’t want to appear stiff, stuffy, or overly formal on your website. But a “casual Friday” approach to writing means taking off your metaphorical necktie, not showing up dressed for a college frat party. You can (and should) adopt a friendly tone when addressing your readers. At the same time, you must always bear in mind that keeping a professional face on things means maintaining a layer of reserve. Close attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage is an important step in that direction.
Writing to attract your ideal clients
We don’t like to talk about social class in the United States. Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that members of different socioeconomic classes will react to your website message in distinct ways. Properly shaping your message will allow you to attract the clients and customers you want the most.
For many highly skilled service providers, the ideal client is a member of the upper middle class or above. This population is accustomed to and comfortable with seeking advice from professionals—and they can usually be trusted to act on the advice they receive. They tend to be better educated, wealthier, and more cosmopolitan. They are often active learners who can partner effectively with you as a patient, law firm client, or service customer.
People with lower socioeconomic status may also have critical service needs that you can address; indeed, they tend to have more desperate needs for your services than your optimal customers. At the risk of over-generalizing, these prospects are often less appealing as clients, if only because they demand so much more of your time. They are more likely to be suspicious of experts and authority, and this means they might resist your advice at critical points. They are often insular and less educated, and so may not have the background to evaluate their situations or your instructions.
And yet they are sensitive to being patronized. Your attempts to dumb down your professional website won’t earn you favorable attention. Instead, your potential lower-class customers will feel that you’re mocking them. Your “good ol’ boy” pose will strike them as false—a poorly masked form of snobbery.
In the meantime, your upper-class prospects will be unimpressed by your ungrammatical writing style. Some will think you’re just lazy, or that you farmed out the writing to someone who may not be a native English speaker. Some will think you’re simply incompetent. None will be encouraged to stick around.
Informal writing for professional websites: How far is too far?
So, as a rule, stick to following the formal rules of grammar and allow your warm, familiar tone to engage readers.
But you can also earn the right to throw away the most rigid rules, now and then. Once you have proved—by producing lots of great content—that you have mastered grammar, you can occasionally bypass the rules. Use “who” instead of “whom.” Split an infinitive, if rewording the sentence would sound awkward. Oh, and sentence fragments! Sentence fragments can really add punch to a paragraph, when they’re used as a rare and exotic spice.
Some things should remain out of bounds for any professional website, of course. No swearing. No instant messaging abbreviations. No emoticons. If you’re at all uncertain, then favor the conservative, classic approach. But if you want the option to be less formal at times, then earn the right to do so by first demonstrating to your readers that you understand the rules and that you’re deliberately choosing to flout them.
Need more specific guidance? Our professional content writing and editorial services are always ready to advise you on an informal, relaxed approach that will win over your online audience and make you a local celebrity for your expertise and wit. Call 888.886.0939 for a FREE evaluation of your current website content and a game plan to get you the clients or customers you want to see.
Are video testimonials better than written testimonials?
Yes, video testimonials are better than written testimonials. It has been shown, time and again, that video testimonials perform better on websites, converting at much higher rates than written testimonials. But why?
Easy Isn't Always Best
Text-format testimonials are much easier to gather and display, I'll give them that. However, this is exactly why they are often perceived as disingenuous. To a wary buyer, there is no proof that you didn't invent a testimonial and post it to your site. The problem is compounded when testimonials are anonymous or initialed. Without details, such as a photo, title or company, these testimonials can be seen as manufactured—even if they're legitimate.
Video testimonials, on the other hand, are harder to fake, and thereby can appear more powerful. They add a feeling of authenticity that text and even audio reviews don't provide. Video clips of clients, customers, or patients show prospects that other people—people who may even look like or sound like them—are satisfied, perhaps even thrilled, by your level of service.
Addressing the Needs of All Learners
Just as teachers need to find out how each of their students learns best, you need to figure out how your audience best absorbs information. We often stress the importance of knowing your perfect client, and testimonials are no exception. While video is often consumed better than text, it doesn't mean that every single person prefers video. You need to determine what your ideal customer or client likes, and then test the theory. Running tests on the effectiveness of video vs. text testimonials will give you a clear picture of what works—and what doesn't.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, we can help. Our team can assist you with any and every part of the testimonial process. From shooting the videos to loading them and running tests, FWM has you covered. Call 888-886-0939 today to see how our team can help you make the most of your marketing dollar.
What tools can I use to track breaking news?
Do I have tools for you! Tracking breaking news has become easier and more customizable than ever. Below are my top five breaking news apps, alerts, and services:
- Twitter. Twitter is often the first place big news stories are announced. I suggest that you follow CNN (@cnnbrk), TMZ (@TMZ), and Anderson Cooper (@AC360). Also, be sure to follow your local news outlets and reporters.
- Google Alerts. Sign up for alerts that align with your areas of practice and your target geographic area. For example, if you are a podiatrist in St. Louis, be sure to sign up for the Google alert "foot injury St. Louis".
- Bing News App. As time goes by, more people are coming to distrust Google and are making the switch to Bing. Bing now offers an app which allows you to tailor the news you get, and it’s a good alternative to Google.
- TMZ App. If you download the TMZ app to your phone or tablet, you'll get instant access to all of their breaking news stories. This is a very good thing if you want to keep up with the latest drug cases, divorces, and crashes in Hollywood.
- Flipboard App. This app is as beautiful as it is effective. Flipboard offers "Magazines of the Web" and allows you to create your own magazines based on the news topics you are most interested in.
Why I Think You Need to Start Tracking News Today
Use one of the above services, or use them all. But whatever you do, you must begin tracking news. If you don't, there is every chance that you will miss the big news story, the one that could forever change your business. By taking a big news story and making it your own, you have the unique, sometimes once in a lifetime, opportunity to advance your image as an expert and garner both local and national attention.
Don't miss your 15 minutes of fame. Call 888-886-0939 to find out how our breaking news services can help you go from Average Lawyer to Celebrity Attorney—in 48 hours or less.
How can I tell if my content themes are working?
Right off the bat, I have to thank you for asking such an important question. Too many times, we talk to business owners who blindly create content for their websites, never taking the time to check and see if it's helping convert visitors. What a waste of time!
Are Your Themes Working?
Once you've created a killer content theme and posted it to your website, it's time to take a look at the effectiveness of your content. To do so, you need to be familiar with analytics. Luckily, this is easy to do when using DSS; it's all laid out there for you, with easy-to-follow instructions.
All you have to do to track your themes is:
- Create a custom advanced segment in analytics for your theme.
- Assign the URL of each piece in the content theme to the segment you created.
- Once you've created your segments and assigned your pieces, it's time to watch and wait. Check back on a regular basis to see which are performing the best. You're looking for high page views, low bounce rates, and lengthy visit durations.
Building on Effective Themes
Did one or more of your themes do really well and exceed your expectations? Great job! But instead of patting yourself on the back, you need to get back to work. Consider writing a few more pieces that connect to the successful theme. Dig deeper into the subject and, if you haven't yet, shoot a video to add to each of the pieces. Also, be sure that each piece in the theme has an effective call to action. Without a good call to action, you may be getting a lot of traffic without a lot of conversions.
If all of this sounds great, but you just don't have the time to write themed content and analyze your data, let us do it for you. We can take over at any point the process. From writing to loading to tracking, we've got you covered. Call 888-886-0939 to speak with a member of our crazy-good professional marketing team today.
I'm so overwhelmed. How am I supposed to find all of the mistakes in my local listings and fix them? HELP!
I've got a bit of bad news. As you feared, it's not as simple as it should be to find mistakes in your local listings and clean them up. Is it possible to do so? Absolutely, and we will show you how in this article. But is it an easy, ten-minute task? No. However, with a little perseverance and patience, we have faith that you can do it. Here's how.
To clean up your local citations, we suggest that you use the following websites:
- Yext. Yext is a fantastic service that finds everywhere your business is listed. This can be a long, long list. In addition to just finding your local citations, Yext will scan all of these listings, showing you everywhere there is incorrect information, missing citations, or missing information. This includes mistakes in your phone number, address, and business name—all of which are crucial to the success of your local listing.
- Whitespark. If your local listings are correct, but you don't feel you're doing enough to take advantage of local search, try using Whitespark. This service will find new, niche-specific local citation sources that you aren't taking advantage of. It will also give you links to your current listings, allowing you to ensure the information found there is correct.
Once you find any mistakes in your local listings, it's time to fix them. Some of the fixes can be as simple as logging into your account and changing a "5" to a "7" in your phone number, but others will be much harder to correct. It can mean contacting each host of the listing sites where your information is wrong and getting them to fix it. And while doing so is possible—we do it all the time—the process can be lengthy and daunting.
There Is Good News, Too
The first bit of good news is that you know what local listings are, and you recognize how important they are and want to ensure that you're getting them right. Huzzah! Also, you have come to us for the answers. At Foster, we are experts at creating and fixing local listings. We love digging into your listings, cleaning them up, and then watching as your local traffic goes through the roof. Seriously, what could be better than that?!
The other good news is that you now have the answer to your question, and you have a choice: go it alone and fix your local citations by yourself or enlist our local-citation cleaning team to help.
If you'd like for our team to take care of your local listing for you—be that creating a new listing, cleaning up a current listing, or helping you change your location—we'd love to help. To get going, just call 888-886-0939, and a member of our SEO team will help you make the most of local search.
What are local citations, and why do they matter?
Local citations are other websites on the internet where your business name, address, and phone number are listed. Back in the day, the only place you had to get your local listing right was the Yellow Pages. Now, your listing is scattered all over the internet and, when incorrect, has the potential to snowball into an avalanche of misinformation and missed opportunities.
How the Local Citation Snowball Gets Rolling
The three big names in local search are Yahoo, Bing, and Google. However, there are many other sites that pull your information from the big guys and one another. So if your information is incorrect on any of your local listings, it's likely listed incorrectly on multiple sites.
When this happens, your listing and your local SEO efforts could be buried under tons of incorrect listings, suffocating your local search power and threatening the life of your practice.
I'm Listed Where?!
Local search is a big deal, so there is a good chance that your information is listed in more places than you know. To find out where your practice is listed, we suggest using the free website Yext. Yext will scan local listing sites and let you know where—and how—you're listed on each of the 50 most popular sites, apps, and maps.
This handy tool can help you find any mistakes in your listings. However, it will be up to you to correct mistakes everywhere your local citations are incorrect. If there are many mistakes across many sites, this can be an extremely time-consuming process.
Another way to check your local citations is to request our free website audit. We will check to see if your local citations are correct and, if they're not, can take over the process of repairing all your listings.
No matter how you get it done, get it done. Incorrect local citations have a huge impact on your local SEO power, affecting your local marketing efforts more than you know. For help digging yourself out, call 888-886-0939 today.
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