You’ve Got Questions About SEO, and We’ve Got Answers!
Our clients often ask us questions about SEO, and for good reason! The rules of SEO seem to change frequently and keeping up with the current recommendations is a daunting task. Here, we answer the most common questions our SEO team gets.
We hope that you find the SEO answers you seek on this page. If you don’t please do not hesitate to call 888-886-0939 to speak with a member of our U.S.-based SEO team.
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How long does SEO take to kick in for a law firm?
You’ve just launched a new website for your law firm, or you’ve just started dipping your toes into law firm SEO. Are you getting impatient to see the fruits of your labor?
The truth is that it typically takes around 6 months to a year for attorneys to see the biggest gains from a new SEO strategy. But it doesn’t necessarily stop there—as long as YOU and your marketing team keep it going.
And, truthfully, this is where a lot of attorneys go wrong with their SEO. They get impatient!
While you might see some positive changes within a matter of days or weeks, it’s truly a case of good things coming to those who proactively wait.
Why Faster Isn’t Always Better for Law Firm SEO
SEO feels like a science. It feels like you should be able to plug in the right keywords, turn the right knobs, and get a great result as soon as you “turn it on.” And that’s kind of the way it used to work, years ago.
But modern SEO is a lot less black and white. There is a lot more to keep track of. You’re usually trying to be seen for lots of longtail, natural-sounding keywords and phrases. You’re working a lot harder on little things that increase your reputation and authority. You’re working on getting things just right on the technical backend of your website. You’re competing with more law firms for your perfect clients’ attention. It’s about a lot more than getting to Page One with whatever the biggest, most obvious keywords are for your law firm. It’s frankly a lot more confusing than it used to be!
All that additional complexity slows things down—and, in some ways, that’s really a good thing.
Even Google raises an eyebrow at sites that gain too quickly in the rankings. Why? Because it assumes you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Just like I said above, that’s just NOT the way SEO works these days!
Your goal with SEO isn’t to race to a predetermined endpoint and then relax. Instead, you’re building up a complex strategy and constantly monitoring and adjusting it to keep it going and make it better. No matter how much you do or how skilled your law firm’s SEO partners are, there will not be a point where you can just rest on your laurels. You have to stay fresh and keep moving if you want to keep a stronghold on your search domination. Scammers and tricksters get flushed out with each new Google update, and earnest lawyers that provide what their potential clients want slowly move up.
Think of that first year as the time you spend EARNING your rankings and wins. Google knows it takes time, and it doesn’t want to push sites to its own users that aren’t up to its standards.
So, it’s really not about how fast you can get there; it’s about sustainability and the quality signals you send over time.
What Can Attorneys Do to See SEO Results Faster?
The most effective SEO strategies right now are a cocktail composed of:
- Technical SEO—you know, things like keyword research, optimization, search-crawler friendliness, etc.
- Consistent, high-quality content
- Clean backlink profiles
- Ongoing maintenance of all the above
So, if you want to speed up your results, make sure that your content strategy is on point. Play by Google’s rules and follow its guidelines for speed, structure, security, and other best practices. This will clear out a lot of bumps in the road that would otherwise slow you down.
Other things you’re already doing to market your law firm can support your SEO efforts, too. Community outreach, PR opportunities, social media involvement, your review strategy, and even email and newsletter outreach can pump up excitement and word-of-mouth referrals. And all those things can give Google more subtle signs that your brand is trustworthy and that your site is hitting all the marks for your perfect clients.
It won’t guarantee you faster or bigger wins, but it sure will support those goals and put you in the best position to achieve them.
Staying on Top of the Things You Can’t Control
Of course, there are things you can’t control that can and will impact how fast your law firm’s SEO strategy gains traction. The quality of the sites you’re competing with matters. The age and authority of your current website matter. Google’s constant algorithm changes matter. But that’s one of the big benefits of working with a skilled SEO partner who can explain the lay of the land and warn you when big changes are coming.
Ultimately, you don’t WANT to see huge, sudden gains that disappear as fast as they appear. That’s usually a bad sign. Instead, what you really want to see are steady gains in traffic and conversions over time. It’s totally normal to see a pattern of fast growth in the first year, followed by slower but steady growth after that. This pattern shows your progress as you trample over poorer quality sites in the beginning before going head-to-head with stronger competition on your way up to the top.
And the best part is that, if you maintain it, your SEO strategy only gets more powerful. It might start slow or feel like it hits a plateau from time to time, but it’s really getting exponentially stronger in the long run. You’ve heard us say it before, but it’s a whole machine that runs faster, better, and more efficiently as you work on it.
Not getting the results you want from your law firm’s SEO efforts? Not sure why it’s taking so long to see results? Join us for a free website analysis, and let’s take a look under the hood together.
How do the links on my attorney website affect my Google ranking?
This is a great question! The links on your attorney website definitely affect your Google ranking—but there’s a lot to know about what those links are, what they do for you, and how to use them.
There are a ton of elements that go into Google’s special sauce for ranking websites, and links are an often-overlooked piece of that puzzle. If you’re at all in doubt, you just have to keep in mind that the original Google “PageRank” algorithm looked almost solely at the way websites linked together—and that’s the foundation for the much more complex algorithms and ranking elements Google uses today!
In short, we might not always know exactly what goes into Google’s secret ranking algorithms, but we DO know that links matter—and they matter a LOT.
Getting Started: Three Types of Links That Affect Page Ranking
Since this is a big question that calls for a big answer, let’s get started with a simple breakdown of what we mean by “links.” There are essentially three types of links that you need to think about for your website:
- Internal links. These are the links on your website that link to other pages on your website.
- External links. In this context, external links are the links on your website that link to outside websites.
- Backlinks. These are the links to your website that come from other websites. You can’t totally control what sites choose to link to yours, but these kinds of links still have an impact on your rankings!
How you handle your internal links, backlinks, and external links can make a surprisingly big difference in your rankings—and each type affects the user experience on your attorney website in its own way, too.
So, with the basics out of the way, let’s get to it! Below, let’s break it down further by type of link and talk more about how each type affects your rankings.
1. What Internal Links Do on Your Attorney Website
Internal links are the links on your website that link to other pages on your website. For example, we might link internally from this FAQ to our attorney SEO services page—just in case this FAQ is motivating you to get on top of your link management!
Search engine crawlers can learn a lot about your site through your internal links, so it’s an important place to focus your attention if you’re concerned about your rankings. Internal links essentially point search engine crawlers to the rest of the pages on your site for indexing. They help crawlers establish a general structure and theme for the content on your website, and they help readers get to other pages that interest them. If you use relevant keywords as the anchor text for those links, it boosts that understanding even more.
With truly savvy internal linking, you can direct potential clients and search engine crawlers toward the most important landing pages on your website, as well as maintain a logical flow of traffic through all your individual pages.
And, if you get a really good link structure going, each internal link on your website that links back to a practice area page will give that practice area page a little more “ranking juice” in Google’s eyes. You’ll also constantly point readers back to top-level, action-oriented pages, which is great for garnering more leads and conversions.
Building a solid strategy for internal links on your attorney website isn’t easy, though. Some of it is in how your website’s basic navigation is designed and organized. Some of it is in how you use internal links in your blog posts, articles, FAQs, and other pages.
However, the guiding idea behind the strategy is relatively simple. You just want your internal links to make it as easy as possible for readers and search engines to understand and move through your website.
2. What External Links Do on Your Attorney Website
Unlike your internal links, which link to other areas of your website, an external link is a link to an outside website or page. For example, we might link to this definition of external link from PCMag’s encyclopedia.
Generally, you don’t want to overwhelm readers with a million links to websites you don’t own. If you already have—or can create—a piece of content that covers it, it’s typically better for you to link internally. However, sometimes someone else really has said it best, and there’s no reason not to send your readers there to check it out.
A lot of lawyers think that external links will encourage people to leave their law firm’s website or otherwise detract from what their website has to offer. However, there isn’t any real need to worry. Sure, you probably don’t want to link to a competitor’s website or some kind of spammy, sketchy page. But, as long as you choose external links with care and intention, it’s unlikely to harm you at all. In fact, using external links can help you by:
- Enhancing the user experience for your readers
- Encouraging links back to your content
- Possibly sending more positive ranking signals to Google about the quality of your website and content
But, again, you need to use those external links with purpose. Your main goal with external links is to enrich your readers’ understanding of a topic, issue, or term and improve the experience they have on your website. Any “ranking juice” you might get from doing so is just a bonus!
We’ll talk even more about this below, but we should also make it clear that you should never try to “game” Google by adding more external links to your site, and you should NEVER buy or sell links.
It’s also worth mentioning that, for external links, it’s much more important that the anchor text provides some context for the link and accurately describes what people will see if they click through. You don’t really need to worry as much about keywords here as long as the anchor text makes sense.
Again, everything about using external links well really comes back to providing a great experience for YOUR perfect clients! If you aim for natural, informative links to authoritative outside websites, and if you use them sparingly, it’s tough to go wrong.
3. What You Should Know About Backlinks From Others to Your Attorney Website
A backlink is a link to your attorney website from another website. For example, when we linked to PCMag in the section above, we gave them a backlink!
Updates to the Google algorithm over time have placed more importance on the quality of your backlinks. Google’s thinking is essentially that, if other great websites think your website is worth linking to, then it’s probably a quality website that’s worth sending searchers to. So, a great profile of backlinks from authoritative sites can have a positive effect on your rankings.
There’s nothing new about backlinks—they’ve been around for a long time. You might even remember when the process of obtaining and maintaining the backlinks to your website was called “link building” in marketing speak, but that term is a little out of vogue these days.
Instead, it’s better to think of it more as “link earning.” And, sometimes, it really does feel like you have to work to earn them!
You have to understand that Google isn’t looking for a certain number of links back to your website. In fact, going after backlinks too aggressively can backfire by actually harming your rankings AND your relationships with outside organizations and entities. You don’t want to engage in link schemes with other sites that are solely for the backlink, and you NEVER want to buy backlinks to your website. Ultimately, Google wants to see a backlink profile full of natural links from quality websites—and using link schemes or cheats clearly violates Google’s quality guidelines.
So, the real question is, how do you get great backlinks if you don’t control the pages that link to you and you can’t buy or trade links?
The key to earning great backlinks is really content, especially content that is written for your perfect client. Blog posts, FAQs, articles, and videos capture the attention of other content creators when they are fresh, unique, valuable, and highly relevant to your audience. You really just want to create content and videos that other people WANT to link to! If it’s compelling enough, and if people are seeing it, then those great backlinks will happen naturally.
If you really want to rev up your backlinks, you can also try just asking for them when it’s appropriate or you have an existing relationship—for example, check out these 9 ways to leverage PR for better backlinks and visibility.
The other side of the coin, though, is that any website out there can link to yours, and you don’t have much control over which websites do. A lot of lawyers see a bunch of junky websites linking to their pages, and that can wreck their nice, clean backlink profile—even though they had no choice in the matter!
However, while you can’t control who chooses to link back to your website, you can disavow links that are spammy, unnatural, or otherwise don’t belong there. If you try for great backlinks, and check in regularly to clean up low-quality links, you can build a backlink profile that shows Google that you have real authority.
Get Better Website Performance by Getting on Top of Your Links
There is no set number of internal links, external links, or backlinks you should use on your website—and there’s a good reason for that. Instead of asking “how many,” you really should be asking “why.” Is there a reason that link is there? Does it help your perfect client in some way? Does it direct people toward relevant information that clarifies or expands on what they’re already reading? If not, it probably doesn’t need to be there.
We’ll absolutely admit that getting the links on your attorney website “just right” is another one of those things that’s equal parts art and science—so don’t feel bad if it feels like there’s a bit of a learning curve! It’s worth it.
A solid linking strategy means that you’re not only giving off “good vibes” for Google, but also for your perfect clients.
And, of course, links and rankings aren’t the only things you should be thinking about. There are all kinds of ways that websites can be optimized for search engines and search engine users—and you need all those pieces to work together!
Don’t see your question answered here? Need a hand cleaning up your backlink profile or an expert opinion on how well your marketing strategy is working for you? Give the friendly FWM team a call at 888.886.0939, or join us for a legal website analysis that will give you HUGE insight into how to move forward.
What is Project Beacon? What do beacons mean for my business?
Did you get a little box from Google’s Project Beacon with a strange device inside?
If so, you probably didn’t get a lot of information about what to do with it or what it means. The information included with the new beacons is sparse, and—so far—the packages are only going out to a few, select businesses.
What Is a Beacon?
Google describes beacons as “one-way transmitters that are used to mark important places and objects.” In practice, the Bluetooth-powered beacons can send information to users’ mobile devices when they get within a few meters of the physical beacon location.
This might mean that someone could walk down the street, get near a local restaurant’s beacon, and get specials sent right to their phone. If a law firm has a beacon-enabled, potential clients could park nearby and get step-by-step walking directions from their phones to the front door.
Beacons can be used in offices, stores, public buildings, and other fixed locations, and they can also be used on vehicles, like buses and taxis.
There are a lot of possibilities, and there are a lot of potential uses to explore as Google reveals more. Beacons are still a little new and mysterious, and there are lots of musings out there about their potential benefits, especially now that Google has entered the ring.
Why Do I Want a Beacon From Project Beacon?
If you’ve received a beacon, you’re among a lucky few. For now, what we know is that the beacon can help businesses by:
- Helping you get more reviews. Beacons from Project Beacon help stimulate reviews, photos, and more from people who have stopped by your office location.
- Refining location and proximity. Beacons can put you on personal maps for users that have turned on Location History, and it can reduce confusion because it transmits from where you actually are.
- Improving the client experience. Beacons make it easier for people to find you and engage with your business, and it brings your online and offline messages together locally—where it matters most.
Getting involved with Project Beacon now also means that you get access to additional features as they are released.
Keep in mind that the beacon doesn’t give information directly to business owners, and it’s hard to say exactly what kinds of metrics Google may provide for beacon users in the future. Having a beacon doesn’t automatically improve visibility in local search, but the benefits it does provide are the right mix to support most local strategies.
It’s optional for now, but it is something cool to try that might improve the experience of clients visiting your physical office location.
How Do I Get One for My Business?
As part of Project Beacon, Google has started sending free beacons to some businesses that:
- Have a physical location
- Have enabled local extensions
- Use Google’s ad services
Do you have questions about how to leverage Google’s beacons or how to take your local SEO strategy to the next level? Contact us at 888.886.0939, and let’s start talking.
What is the difference between hard and soft 404 errors?
Sometimes, 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 client support 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.
Does the domain extension for my website affect my search engine rankings?
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.
What is Universal Analytics and how do I make sure that I have it?
Some people love to hate Google because of all its updates, changes, and rules. We acknowledge that this can be frustrating, but we also know how valuable the search tool is! And, every now and then, Google gives us a gift that doesn’t require a mad dash to fix our backlink profiles or clean up our over-stuffed content.
This time, we’re excited to receive Google’s gift called “Universal Analytics!” You should be excited, too.
Whether you have your own personal Google Analytics account set up for your website, or you use the information that Foster Web Marketing supplies (or both—bravo!), you should know that Google Analytics is upgrading to “Universal Analytics.”
Universal Analytics Offers a Wide Range of Improved Tracking:
- Better mobile tracking
- The ability to track user IDs across all devices
- Demographic information
- “Lighter weight” for your website (performs in a less resource-intensive way so as to not slow down user experience)
- Better marketing integration
- Better forward compatibility
It’s important to note that if you’re a client of Foster Web Marketing, you automatically have a Google Analytics account set up for your website, and therefore your account has been already upgraded to Universal Analytics.
And even if you're not a client, Google has automatically upgraded most accounts, so chances are you don’t need to worry about doing it yourself.
How To Confirm Whether Your Site Is Making Use of Universal Analytics
However, we operate by the philosophy “trust but verify,” so if you want to verify that your account is good to go, just follow these steps:
- Login to your personal Google Analytics account.
- Go to your Admin page.
- If you see “Tracking Info” under the “Property” column (the middle column), that means your account is already upgraded. You’re done!
- If you don’t see “Tracking Info” and instead see “Tracking Code,” then your account has not been upgraded. There should be an option in that same middle “Property” column that says “Universal Analytics Upgrade.” Click this and follow the steps.
As always if you need any help at all, or would like us to walk you through the new features, call 888-886-0939 or shoot us an email.
How do I prevent reviews for my business from being removed from Google, Yelp, and other review sites?
Reviews have become increasingly important for all businesses. If you want to do well, you have to have a good review reputation online. Unfortunately for attorneys, podiatrists, and other physicians, these reviews are hard to get. That’s why so many of our clients ask us questions about how to make sure that the reviews they get stick—that they aren’t filtered out by the big review sites (Google, Yelp, FindLaw, HealthGrades, etc.).
To answer your question, and to help you ensure that you’re following best practice review-gathering strategies, we’ve compiled a list of the questions clients ask most often along with our best, most ethical advice:
Can I have people leave reviews from my office?
Yes and no. The one big no-no here is setting up a computer in your office for reviews. Review sites are onto this and can tell if reviews are all coming from the same IP address. If they see it happening they will yank all these reviews.
However, it is acceptable to have them leave a review from their phone, so don’t be afraid to encourage pleased patients, clients, or customers to submit a review before they leave your office. For more on how to ask for reviews, read our article on exactly how to ask for reviews.
Can I offer a discount or gift for a review?
No. Never offer an incentive for people who leave a positive review. This is strictly forbidden. Some people have tried to get around it by giving the gift and saying it’s for any review, positive or negative, but we don’t recommend doing so. Just get reviews the old fashioned way: earn their praise and then ask them to share the love.
Can I send people to review sites from my website?
You can send people directly to most review websites and not have any issues. Here is an example of our “Rate Us!” page:
Keep the content on these pages short and sweet. Don’t distract visitors with a ton of modules or other info; you want to point their eyes directly to the review site buttons, leading them down a clearly marked path to review success!
It is important to note that while we normally don’t see reviews cleared out when a review site is accessed from a website, there is one notable exception: Yelp. To avoid this, only send users to Yelp thorough a button on your website that uses a Google search link. This way Yelp won’t see you send people to their site, but the link will still offer direct access to your page on the review site.
To do this, type in “Your Business Name site:www.Yelp.com,” using your actual business or practice name at the start. Here is an example:
To get this link for your site, right click on your business name for Yelp, select, “Copy link address,” and then embed this link into the Yelp button on your website. This link will be long, and should look something like this:
One word of caution: Make sure you choose the right link, the right business, when you look at your search results. That may seem like a no-brainer but it can be tricky, especially given how many similar brand names there are, particularly in the podiatry field.
Should I pay someone to get reviews for me?
If someone offers to dramatically increase the number of good reviews you get, run away! The only people who offer instant positive reviews are cheating cheaters who cheat, and any reviews you get will be fictitious and almost guaranteed to get your reviews, both real and fake, yanked from review sites. Goodbye hard-earned, legitimate reviews!
Now, if you have a law firm marketing company helping you run an ethical review acquisition campaign, that’s a different story. There is a lot of leg work involved in getting good reviews and managing your online reputation, so there is no problem if you hire this work out. Just never hire someone who promises are too good to be true.
Can I transfer testimonials or written reviews to review sites?
No. If you’re sent a kind, glowing email, or someone responds positively on a comment card in your office you absolutely cannot transfer these kind words to reviews sites.
What you can do is use this opportunity to ask for a review. When you get a positive email response or comment, either verbally or in writing, ask for a review. Thank them for their kind words and ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing them with other looking for excellent legal or medical care, pointing them to your “Rate Us” page.
Should I ask friends, family, and my employees to write reviews?
No. While it can be tempting to send out an office-wide memo to ask employees to write a positive review, or to broach the subject with your family over Thanksgiving dinner, don’t. Not only could this get reviews yanked (if they all come from your office, for example), it’s just bad business. It’s disingenuous, it’s cheating, and it can create a bad feeling among your staff; nobody wants to feel forced into this kind of thing. So save your relationships, and your reviews, and work on getting legitimate reviews using advice from our Reviews Matter webinar.
I hope that I’ve answered all of your questions on the right and wrong ways to get reviews. If you have any other questions about reviews please do not hesitate to call 888-886-0939 or fill out a contact form on this page. We’d love to hear from you!
I am a doctor who recently got divorced and have legally changed my name. Do you think I should keep my former name on my website and online, to assist in patient recognition or for SEO purposes?
This excellent question was posed by one of our clients. The physician had legally changed her name, but didn’t know the best way to proceed when it came to changing it online. On one hand, she was ready to be done with her old name, but she didn’t want this change to affect her visibility online.
She was right to be concerned! There is a very good chance that patients who haven’t seen her in a while, or prospective patients who have been referred from a friend, will search using the old name.
Three Steps to Name Change Success
Whether it was a divorce, marriage, or entrance into the witness protection program, it’s important that you change your name not only on your website but also on external directories and profiles like healthgrades.com or avvo.com. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this is going to be a tall task, but it’s a necessary step. To help you through this process I will outline exactly how to go about finding where your name is listed on the Internet, and then give advice on how best to make the changes needed.
Please note: As the client who asked the question was a doctor I am going to use a physician in the examples below. However, any professional or business owner who relies on her name for brand recognition needs to attend to each of the steps listed.
Your Website Makes the Transition
This will be the simplest step in the process. We recommend that you find all mentions of your old name on your website and change them to your new name. The only exception to this rule will be on your bio page and perhaps your homepage. Mentioning your former name on these pages will prevent prospective clients from thinking, “Oh, I’ve got the wrong person!” On these pages, your new name should be prominently displayed, but under that, you should add something to the effect of, “Dr. New Name, formerly known as Dr. Former Name.” You can even wield a bit of wit here, saying something like, “New name, same excellent medical care.”
Audit Your Local Listings
Ideally, you’ve already performed a local listings audit and have an extensive, well-organized list of everywhere your business is listed. If so, please move on to step three. If not, it’s a good idea to do this now. Start by searching for your name and your profession on Google. You will use the search string equivalent to “former name doctor”; for instance, “Rachel Elkins podiatrist.” You may wish to make repeated searches using synonyms: “Doctor Rachel Elkins,” “Rachel Elkins foot doctor,” and so forth. Make a list of every website that pops up in your search results.
Add to this list every website you know you’re listed on. This should include Facebook, LinkedIn, and any listings or social media sites that you’ve already claimed (Healthgrades, Avvo, etc.). Another good idea is to use the free services at Yext. Yext will show you exactly where you’re listed, Internet-wide. Add any sites that Yext finds to your list. You should now have a very thorough list (we suggest using a spreadsheet to organize this list) of the places your name is listed online. With this list in hand, move on to step three.
Change Your Information
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of this process. Starting with the results that popped up in the search of your name, begin visiting the websites and editing your name. This will be a tedious task, as it’s possible you’ve never claimed the majority of your listings and will therefore have to register on with website before being able to make changes. But don’t let this deter you! It’s a crucial step that you simply cannot skip! Go down the list, one by one, making notes in your spreadsheet when you successfully make changes. As you do so, feel free to add your new name disclaimer in the description box that most of these websites provide. “Dr. New Name, formerly known as Dr. Former Name; new name, same excellent medical care.”
Pro tip: Make the most of your time by ensuring that your name, address, and phone number are identical on each site. Even a “&” on one site an “and” on another, a listing of “Stephanie” on one website and “Steph” on another will wreak havoc on the success of your local listings. So scrutinize each of your listings, correcting these mistakes as you go.
Successfully Establishing a New Web Identity
Has this answer helped you better understand how to change your name online? If so, please feel free to share this article using one of the buttons on this page. And for timely, expert information be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Good luck out there, and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to call us at 888-886-0939.
Should I embed my YouTube videos onto my website or host them myself?
In the majority of cases for our clients, I do not believe that it's a good idea to embed YouTube videos onto your website. While this topic is hotly debated in the video and SEO world, I would argue that more times than not, doing so will actually drive people away from your site. Talk about counterproductive!
You will find that the majority of information out there says that it is a good idea to embed YouTube videos, but those people are referring to content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. DSS, our proprietary marketing automation software, has a lot more going for it than these less sophisticated systems and actually makes hosting videos extremely easy.
Here are the top four reasons I believe you should think twice before embedding a YouTube video:
- Advertising for the enemy. When you embed a YouTube video you can’t control what shows up after the video. Videos from other lawyers or competing businesses are likely to pop up as recommended videos after yours has stopped playing. Modern humans are more distractible than goldfish, so when they get to the end of your video and see other options you run the very real risk of having them go off-page and even find another attorney, doctor, or business. No bueno!
- Loss of control. The fact that you have full control over the video you host is very, very important. When you add your video to YouTube, you lose full control of your videos; it's the price you pay for their hosting services. However, when you load your own videos, you have total control of them and don't have to play by any else's rules.
- The annoyance factor. As I said in number one, when you embed a YouTube video on your site that video is likely to begin and end with an advertisement. Ads annoy users, so when they pop up, you run the risk of an ad sending people off your website. However, when you host your own videos, users will be able to watch your videos without having to worry about an ad popping up on their screens.
- Level of difficulty. You hear a lot of people recommending embedding YouTube videos on a website because it is hard to create a separate video section. And with systems like WordPress or any similar content management system, this is true! But our clients have access to DSS, our proprietary marketing software, which includes a video section and a crazy easy uploading system. People also say that load times are improved with videos embedded with YouTube, but for our clients, bandwidth isn't an issue for websites run through DSS.
The Right Time to Embed YouTube Videos on Your Website
Though I've given you several reasons not to embed YouTube videos on your website, I am not totally against embedding a few of them on your site. A few embedded here and there can give the YouTube videos additional views, thereby boosting their search rankings on YouTube. And some people do like to see the YouTube logo on your site; it can make the videos seem more "legit." But I really wouldn’t recommend making this the main way you are posting videos on the site, so choose the videos you embed carefully and keep an eye on how they're converting.
Want to know more about video and its role in your SEO plan? Then call 888-886-0939 to speak with me or a member of our team. We would love to help you make the most out of every video you post.
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