Thursday, August 29, 2013

Givers v. Takers - Law Blogs & Becoming a "Giver"

One of the most "celebrated" business/development/success books released in the last year is Give and Take from Wharton School Professor Adam Grant.

The entire text is worth a read, but the premise is straightforward.  There are three general types of personal and business relationship styles: giving, matching, and taking.

***Takers view every relationship through the lens of self-interest (How much can I make from you?).
***Matchers view every relationship through a fairness lens (How can I give you exactly as much as you are giving me?).
***Givers view every relationship though the altruism lens (How can I help you?).

Naturally, the book hedges by explaining that these are very general parameters and there are many nuances to consider.  Takers are not purely selfish and givers are not pushovers.  However, research general show that everyone has a tendency to fit into one of these models most of the time.

The underlying theme of the book is that, in the long-run, Givers are the most successful. I do not want to attempt a full scale summary of the argument here (read the whole book for that).  But a persuasive case is made that not "charging"for every benefit one provides to others ultimately leads to substantial return in the end.

Consider this is view of your law practice marketing.  Some fear that using novel approaches, like a law firm blog, to share detailed, helpful information with potential clients is "giving away" the knowledge at no cost.  For example, if you work on estate planning, is it harmful to create a detailed blog the provides information on the specific legal requirements for a will or explains how to set up a trust?  Will potential clients simply use the information on their own and not retain your services?

Professor Scott would argue precisely to the contrary.  Giving away helpful information is exactly what one should be doing while cultivating a "giving" persona to gain respect, attention, and appreciation in the community.

Blogs = Giving

In fact, in the book Scott points directly to blogs as a sign of giving.  When discussing a venture capital firm, the book examines one very successful investor who created a blog against partner wishes.  The partners wondered "Why give away trade secrets?"  The answer: the investor wanted to help entrepreneurs.  What better way than by sharing information about the process?

In the end, the blog remains a smashing success.  The same principles apply to law firm blogs.  View your blog as tool to give back to your community--whatever that community might be, from injury victims to small business owners.  Sure, there are SEO factors in a blog, but they will work themselves out almost naturally.  Take the big picture view of the blog as an outreach tool for those you hope to serve.

Photo Credit: travelmeasia via Compfight cc

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Discontent Over SEO "Guidance" From Google

How does anyone know what to do to rank well in Google searches?

Most people who work on that task give a version of this answer: We engage in appropriate tactics, optimization, and content creation based on guidelines set forth by Google.

But what are those guidelines?  For starters, take a look at Google's "Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide."  If you don't have time to delve into this tome (honestly, who does), then the summary version is this: (1) Use common sense keyword terms as headlines/titles on your website pages; (2) Add helpful, interesting, unique, informative content to your website.  Ta Da.  That's about it.

Of course, there are a million other detail questions that one might ask about all of this.  To help with the detail questions, Google's head of  search spam, Matt Cutts, frequently releases short video clips that explain different concepts.  For example, here is one from late last month that talks about what counts as duplicate content.  In particular,  the question concerned any penalties for things like "Terms and Conditions" and similar content that appears verbatim on many different pages.  Will that trigger a penalty?  Here is Cutts' answer:

In short: don't worry about a duplicate content penalty for this boilerplate text stuff.

But perhaps even more interesting than Cutts' answer is the response it spurred in comments sections of one of the most popular search engine marketing community website: SearchEngineLand.  Take a look at the comments on this post:

In other news, Panda is now useless. Who /really/ follows his LITERAL advice anymore?

One day it's black, one day it's is always difficult to know what's going to hurt your SEO efforts and rankings, so as a rule of thumb I'd always advise clients to avoid duplicate content.
It is very easy for google to come up with statements saying something is safe, but as we all know the rules and algorithms could change tomorrow, so better stay safe!

I honestly don't listen to him that much anymore. The discrepancies between what Matt and Google says and the reality in the SERP has become way too big

I think this is what his job is. Manipulating the answers into a 
myth. Find the duplicate and then think if its gonna hurt you or not!

The takeaway: The most sophisticated marketing and SEO folks in the business are frequently dismissive the advice provided by those directly from Google.  This is a product of Google's somewhat generic, mundane advice and the complex reality.  For law firms and law firm blog writing, it is another reminder that there are few silver bullets.  Because most don't know exactly what does and what does not work, sticking with the basics is always the best strategy.  Add good legal content consistently.  Add to the Internet, and you'll do well.