The Ultimate List of Law Firm Marketing Terminology
Getting law firms to the top of the Google results is hard work.
Using that top spot to then convert web traffic into actual clients? …Clients with bigger and better cases than the firm’s getting now? That’s even harder work.
But it’s also our expertise.
The study of digital marketing for law firms & attorney SEO is a full-time devotion. It’s a world with a language all its own — a techy, nerdy, buzzwordy vernacular filled with inside baseball and Silicon Valley jargon.
Like any language, digitalese is easiest to pick up when you’re immersed in it… like we are, because it’s been our career and our whole world for years.
It’s harder to learn when you’re only dabbling in SEO from the world of normalcy — for example, an attorney or law firm administrator who’s reading one of our blog articles. (Sound familiar? Don’t worry. We’re here to help.)
Below, you will find a relatively comprehensive glossary of law firm marketing terminology. It is the culmination of years of studying and mastering the industry, but with definitions easy for even the non-Google-guru to grasp.
The Attorney Marketing Lexicon: Key Terms You Need to Know
Analytics is the study of a website’s performance, both in real time and over longer periods of time. Using software programs and our own metrics, we can collect data about your website (and your other digital marketing efforts, such as social media, PPC advertising, etc.) and make precise determinations as to what’s working and what isn’t.
Analytics tell us who’s visiting your site, how they find it, what they do once they get there, how long they stick around, which demographics they match, whether they encounter any problems, and much, much more.
At Black Fin, we run ongoing analytics and use the results to continually make improvements to your website and digital marketing strategies.
When someone else’s website links back to yours, it’s called a backlink. Backlinks are incredibly important for establishing what we call “domain authority.” In other words, Google’s algorithms view backlinks as strong indicators of trustworthiness and credibility. These are things that will ultimately improve your site’s SEO.
Beware, however, of backlinks from sites that have poor domain authority, as they can have the opposite effect.
Black Hat vs. White Hat
Black Hat SEO refers to tricky or unethical tactics designed to dupe search engine algorithms or manipulate their results. Some black hat practices are illegal; others are technically allowable but will nevertheless hurt your website over time. The effect may be gradual, but black hat SEO will always produce poor results in the long run, including the real possibility of irreversible penalties from Google and other search engines.
White Hat SEO refers to SEO strategies that are ethical, “above board,” and consistent with the policies of all major search engine companies. Make no mistake: white practices aren’t “wimpy.” On the contrary, white hat SEO can be extremely inventive and clever. More importantly, they work, whereas black hat techniques do not.
A surprising number of companies, including some web marketing agencies, still attempt to use black hat tactics. Some even brag about it. But don’t fall for the lie. (Notably, some tactics that were once considered above board are now decidedly black hat. A classic example is “keyword stuffing,” in which websites cram duplicate or irrelevant keywords into poorly written webpages — a strategy that worked in the early days of the internet but has a disastrous effect now.)
You want a low bounce rate.
Why? The bounce rate is the percentage of users who navigate away from your website after viewing only one webpage.
A whole host of factors can contribute to an excessive bounce rate (poor site layout, slow-loading pages, keyword stuffing, unattractive design, non-mobile-responsiveness, intrusive pop-ups… the list is long.)
But two qualities are absolutely critical to encouraging users to stay on your site:
- Well-designed web pages and
• High-quality content that readers find informative
Bounce rate is one of our key metrics when designing websites and running analytics.
Canadian Transit Authority?
Nope. CTA stands for Call-to-Action, and it is vital to getting conversions. You can present all the best information in the world on your web pages, but without directing people to take action, you can’t really expect them to pick up the phone and call.
For example, at the end of a blog article about recent motorcycle accidents in your city, we might address the reader directly as follows: “If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. But strict legal time limits apply. Please contact our office for a free consultation right now. A lawyer is waiting to answer your questions — with no obligations.”
A city page is a special webpage on your law firm’s website. It is very similar to a practice area webpage, except its content and metadata is oriented toward a specific city.
For example, let’s assume a personal injury law firm already has generalized practice area webpages for: Auto Accidents, Wrongful Death, and Premises Liability. To target a specific city within each of those practice areas (say, Springfield), the firm would create separate and additional city webpages as follows: Springfield Auto Accidents, Springfield Wrongful Death, Springfield Premises Liability. The firm would then go on to do this for each city and practice area it wishes to target.
City pages are very useful for improving your website’s rank in local search results. Because most law firms compete locally, city pages are an essential part of many law firms’ content creation strategies. This is especially true for larger law firms that practice in multiple markets — or even for smaller firms that primarily practice in one city but also want to target several smaller towns or counties nearby.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Imagine you run an online ad linking to a recent blog article. 1,000 people see the ad, but only 600 of them click the link to the article.
As digital marketers, we would say your ad achieved a 60% click-through rate, or CTR.
CTR, then, is the percentage of people who click on a hyperlink — and that’s something we track for emails, PPC ads, backlinks, and beyond.
The higher the click-through rate, the better your ads and other links are performing.
CTR is a great tool for testing how closely your audience is engaging with your content and your brand.
The end goal, the holy grail, the reason we’re all here… conversions are what digital marketing is all about.
In short, a “conversion” occurs when you get a person to perform a desired action.
As legal marketers, we define a “conversion” as getting a prospective client to contact you for legal services. Studies show that the majority of legal clients today begin their search online, choose an attorney based on their website and overall web presence, but then ultimately pick up the telephone to make contact with the chosen firm (or sometimes using email or an online contact form). For this reason, we gear most of our digital marketing efforts to getting prospects to make contact.
Another way of thinking about conversion is turning prospective clients into paying clients. That is our whole purpose at Black Fin: using the web to get law firms new clients, better cases, and higher ROI.
If there is any one maxim to follow in your quest to dominate search engine marketing, it is this: “Content is king.” From a digital marketing perspective, many kinds of content can be useful as part of an SEO strategy. These include:
- Blog articles
- Landing pages
- YouTube videos
- White papers
- Press releases
- Guests posts
- Much more
“Content creation” refers to the creation of these items, while “content marketing” is the closely related concept of integrating content into an inbound SEO strategy. We often organize and publish our clients’ content using Content Management System (CMS) software (or a similar tool known as a Content Optimization System, or COS).
A cookie is a small piece of data about a website that is stored on a user’s computer by his or her web browser.
The primary purpose of cookies is to store meaningful information from the user’s browser activity / history so that the browser can provide a better user experience in the future (e.g. remembering passwords and login information).
At Black Fin, we are committed to using cookies ethically and in accordance with best practices in modern web design.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
“Cost per click” relates to Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC, see below). The cost per click is the amount of money you pay each time someone clicks on your PPC ad.
The cost per click for an ad can often be more than the cost per impression (CPM, see below). This is because, as a general rule, not everyone who sees an ad will click on it.
Both CPC and CPI are important metrics for ensuring that your PPC campaign costs don’t get too high. Marketers who don’t approach PPC advertising with a clear CPC strategy can cost their clients dearly and quickly diminish ROI.
Note: cost per click is sometimes referred to as “cost per action” or “CPA” (a less common and slightly broader term, but that distinction is beyond the scope of this glossary).
Cost Per Impression (CPM)
When running a PPC campaign, you often have a choice between two payment options:
- Get charged each time someone sees the ad. This is called cost per impression, or CPM.
- Get charged each time someone clicks on the ad. This is called cost per click, or CPC (see above).
CPM makes sense for some ad campaigns; CPC makes sense for others. Depending on the ad and the service you’re using to display it, there may be other payment options as well.
“Direct traffic” refers to any traffic your website receives that was not referred from another online source. This includes:
- People typing in your website’s URL
• People getting to your website from a bookmark
• Links from another online source that, for one reason or another, don’t get recorded as referrals
That last part makes the calculation of direct traffic a little complicated, and truth be told, there’s a lot to it (much more than we can tackle in a paragraph or two). But the gist of direct traffic is this: for the most part, it’s the number of people who visit your site directly and without any intermediaries.
Domain authority is a measurement of how well your website or individual webpages will perform on Google and other search engines. It is closely related to the “Quality Score” that Google assigns each website and then uses in determining your search rank.
The higher your domain authority, the better your webpages will rank when people search for keywords that relate to your law firm. Strengthening domain authority for law firms is a big part of what we do at Black Fin, and many of our marketing strategies are aimed at that goal.
As a general rule, Google’s web crawlers don’t like finding identical portions of text in multiple places on the web — not even on multiple pages within your own website.
While some types are duplicate content are perfectly fine (a topic on which we could write many pages), as a general rule, it is important to stay away from duplicate content as much as possible. If you’re using a lot of duplicate content or the wrong kinds, search engines will suspect you’re trying to manipulate their results. Big penalties ensue.
When hiring copywriters for your website, a chief duplicate content concern is plagiarism. This is especially concerning for law firms in at least three regards:
- Your copywriters could be putting plagiarized work on your site, subjecting you to intellectual property complaints and, potentially, ethics problems with your state bar (especially since the plagiarized content often comes from a competing law firm’s website).
- You paid someone to create copy so that it could boost your SEO, but plagiarized content has the opposite effect. Essentially, you’re paying someone to harm your website.
- If you hire copywriters who are non-lawyers or not otherwise familiar with the legal services industry, they might lack the requisite insight or research skills and may, therefore, be more likely to lift material from other sources.
For these reasons, it’s important to work with an experienced and reputable content provider you can trust.
If you were a local law firm in Philadelphia, you wouldn’t want to advertise to people in California, right? By using geo-targeting features, we can focus your internet marketing efforts squarely on the regions and geographical areas in which you do business.
For example, if you set up a PPC ad for “Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney,” you can use geo-targeting to make sure that only people from Philadelphia who search for that term will see your ad.
A “guest post” is what it sounds like — a blog article written by someone outside of your law firm. The term doesn’t need a lot of explanation, but we include it here because guest posts have proven so effective in recent years that they’ve become a staple of digital marketing for attorneys.
On your law firm’s blog, a guest post could come from other lawyers, professors, or even former clients.
But even more importantly, as an attorney, you can write guests posts for other organizations… not only law firms but also newspapers, magazines, law-related websites, blogs, and beyond. These kinds of guest posts are extremely worthwhile because they make your brand visible to a new audience and create high-value “backlinks” (see above) to your law firm website. Of course, lawyers are often too busy for any extracurricular writing. For that reason, our content creation team offers to ghostwrite guest posts for our clients in a wide variety of publications.
HTTP vs. HTTPS
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a protocol the internet uses to transmit and format data. It governs how web browsers and servers respond to a user’s command. For example, when you enter a URL, what you’re actually doing is sending an HTTP command to the relevant web server, telling it to retrieve and display the website data associated with that URL.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is a secured version of the HTTP protocol, meaning the data being exchanged between the browser and the server is encrypted. (The distinction is more complex than that, but this suffices for a general understanding.)
Sounds technical, right? You don’t need to worry too much about HTTP vs. HTTPS, but what you should know is that Google prefers websites that use HTTPS. Why? Simply put, Google wants to protect its users, and it puts greater trust in sites using a certified-secure protocol.
Recently, Google began assigning a “favorable ranking signal” to HTTPS sites. Essentially, this means these sites have a slight SEO advantage over HTTP sites. The difference isn’t enormous, but many experts expect Google to give even greater weight to HTTPS over time. Besides, law is a competitive field, and you need every SEO point you can get. So there’s no reason not to use HTTPS. Just make sure you approach your conversion from HTTP to HTTPS carefully so as to avoid technical errors along the way. Black Fin can help with that.
In the world of internet advertising, an impression is a single display of an ad on a given webpage.
For example: when you advertise on a website, each time somebody comes across that ad, it registers as an impression.
Some people confuse impressions with “clicks,” in which somebody takes action by clicking on the ad. But an impression occurs whenever someone sees the ad, regardless of whether they click it. (For more on this distinction, read the entries on “Cost Per Click” and “Cost Per Impression” above.)
Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing
In outbound marketing, you send a message out into the world and hope that the people who see it will be interested and take action. Most traditional marketing methods qualify as outbound: television ads, newspaper and magazine ads, direct mail, etc.
Inbound marketing takes the opposite approach. You create content that meets a certain need so that a relevant audience can find it. For example, if you want injured Miami pedestrians to find your law firm, you create a series of blog articles for keywords relevant to those victims and their families. When those people go to search for their need online, your content is already waiting for them. And using SEO strategies, you can substantially increase the likelihood that your website is the one they find.
While these are tidy and brief definitions of fairly complex concepts, they get to the heart of the distinction between inbound and outbound marketing. As a digital marketing agency, we can utilize both these concepts on behalf of law firms (YouTube videos, for example, can play both an inbound and an outbound role), but attorney SEO is primarily an exercise in inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is generally much less costly than outbound and can produce greater ROI because your efforts are narrowly tailored to a relevant audience of likely prospects. Outbound, by comparison, casts a wide and expensive net.
For law firms, the most notable type of “intrusive interstitial” is the pop-up chat box. This has become a common feature on many law firm websites, and for good reason. They have proven very effective at capturing leads. But Google recently changed its rules regarding interstitials. There’s much to be said on this topic, but above all else, you should know that some pop-up chat boxes are allowable while others will get your site penalized. It all comes down to the way in which the box integrates with your site and the extent to which it intrudes on the “User Experience” (see below).
A landing page is a special kind of webpage that serves as the destination from an advertisement or hyperlink.
For example, if we create a PPC ad for Boise Wrongful Death Attorneys, we would link that ad to a special, newly created landing page with content that corresponds specifically to the wrongful death keyword the reader searched for.
This way, we can track how much traffic is coming in from the ad while also putting extremely relevant information in front of the user. The purpose of a landing page is to efficiently capture leads and drive them toward taking a specific action. (In some cases, your homepage may serve as a landing page, but in most cases, we create a new page narrowly tailored to a specific keyword or ad.)
A lead is a potential customer who has visited your website or otherwise made contact with your business and shown some indication of an intent to do business (e.g. responding to a CTA, filling out an online form, contacting your office, downloading a white paper, etc.).
We have two principal goals with respect to leads:
- Attracting readers/prospects to your website such that they take an interest in doing business with your firm (this is called “lead generation”)
- Converting leads into sales/clients (see “Conversions” above)
We call this process of turning prospects into leads, leads into conversions, and conversions into loyal clients the “Content Marketing Sales Funnel.”
This is an SEO strategy in which we cultivate backlinks to your website from other websites with strong domain authority. In turn, this yields a positive impact on your website’s domain authority and search rank. It also helps to drive new traffic to your business.
Link boosting must be done ethically and using “white hat” practices (for more on that term, see “Black Hat” above). The wrong approach to link boosting could result in search engine penalties for your website. But there are many acceptable and effective methods of link boosting for attorneys. One of our favorites is to launch scholarship campaigns on behalf of your law firm… not only are these good for PR but they also result in backlinks from highly regarded educational institutions’ websites (which generally have excellent domain authority and quality scores, not to mention plenty of traffic of their own).
Note: “link boosting” and “link building” (see below) are sometimes used interchangeably. We typically employ both strategies on behalf of our attorney SEO clients.
As outlined in the entry for “backlinks” above, an external link to your website is one of the most important sources of ranking power in all of SEO. External links pass “link juice” (ranking power) differently than internal links because the search engines consider external links to be “third-party votes of confidence.”
Today, the major search engines use numerous metrics to determine the value of any given external link. Two of the most important metrics are popularity and relevancy. The more popular and relevant the linking website is, the more potent their link becomes (and the more popular and relevant your site becomes as a result).
To optimize the popularity and relevancy of your site’s external links, we search for the most popular websites that already link to your website (e.g. Avvo, Super Lawyers, LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, BBB, YouTube, Twitter, etc.).
We then carefully select the most relevant among these sites, as well as those with great reviews — including websites that score well despite not having the name recognition of the examples we listed here. We then boost those URLs with social signals (likes, shares, +1’s, etc.). This will, in turn, increase the “ranking juice” those websites pass on to your site. This practice is called link building.
Note: “link building” and “link boosting” (see above) are sometimes used interchangeably. We typically employ both strategies on behalf of our attorney SEO clients.
Local Search Marketing / Local SEO
Local SEO is the art and science of improving your law firm’s rank in search results for local keywords and keyphrases — or for any searches by users living within your local target market. It’s a crucial part of digital marketing for lawyers, especially in the era of mobile web browsing, Google My Business, and Google Maps. Learn more about Black Fin’s approach to local search marketing here.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number — three things you want on every single one of your webpages. You never know when a prospective client is going to want to pick up the phone to hire you, but if he or she is on a webpage without your contact info, you might have missed your chance for conversion.
This is one part of internet marketing you really can’t afford to sleep on.
“Organic traffic” refers to all visits to your website that come in through search engine results.
For example, imagine someone searches for “Philadelphia drug possession defense” and your website appears in the Google search results. If they click on that result and visit your site, that visit is considered organic traffic.
Organic traffic does not include, for example, visits to your website that come in through paid advertising or sponsored posts. For that reason, in conducting analytics (see above), we often talk about “organic traffic vs. paid traffic.”
There are other kinds of traffic too (see the entries for “direct traffic” and “referral traffic”), but organic is generally the most important because it has the strongest overall impact on the success of your brand’s web presence.
“Organic internet marketing” is the science of increasing organic traffic by using content and web design to make your site more visible (and more highly ranked) in search results for keywords (referred to as “organic search”).
“Referral traffic” occurs when people visit your site from sources other than a search engine. The most common source of referral traffic is a backlink from another website. Links from social media and discussion forums also count as referral traffic.
Sometimes people visit your website, spend some time reading it, but then leave it — maybe because they ran out of time, got distracted, or weren’t ready to make a decision yet. Unfortunately, they might forget to come back… or even worse, become converted by one of your competitors in the meantime.
Retargeting (sometimes called “remarketing”) is a solution to that problem. Through retargeting, we can display reminder ads to these people on other websites as they browse the web during the hours, days, and weeks to come. We accomplish this through the use of “cookies” (see above). There are other forms of retargeting too.
Imagine, for example, that a local auto accident victim visits your website during her research process, and she likes what she sees. But she goes on to research several competitors too, and soon, she forgets which law firm’s websites she liked. So she goes about her day, not yet having made a decision. Through retargeting, we can show her “reminder ads” for your law firm — even while she’s shopping online, using social media, reading her favorite blogs, etc. (these are just examples).
Retargeting is extremely effective at recapturing leads. In fact, we use it for our own attorney marketing services here at Black Fin. It is also entirely lawful, ethical, and considered a worthwhile “white hat” practice.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing — that is, marketing intended to make your law firm more visible in search engine results. SEM includes elements of SEO (“Search Engine Optimization,” see below), but it also includes other strategies such as PPC (“Pay Per Click,” see above) and other paid advertising strategies. An important part of SEM strategy is targeting specific keywords that are relevant to your business.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website so that it achieves a better rank for designated keywords in Google and other search engines.
A wide variety of factors affect your search rank, including:
- The quality the content on your webpages
- The word count of your webpages and blog articles (generally speaking, longer is better for SEO)
- The loading speed of your website and all its elements
- Whether your site is mobile responsive and uses the latest best practice standards in web design
- And much more
SEO is the art and science of improving these and other factors affecting your search rank.
Is it trendy? Yes. A little confusing from the outside looking in? Definitely. Effective? Utterly.
Sessions vs. Users
A “user” is a person who visits your website, whereas a “session” is an interaction with your website.
One user can comprise many different sessions, depending on the amount of time they spend on your site and how many different webpages they visit. We often track sessions by using cookies.
UI vs. UX
A website’s User Interface (UI) is comprised of the screens, pages, and visual elements that a user encounters when visiting.
A website’s User Experience (UX) includes the elements of UI, but it is defined as the comprehensive experience that a user has while interacting with a website — everything from how easy or pleasant the reading is to how easily navigable the site is overall.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Your law firm’s USP is its marketable identity. More than a slogan, USP refers to a comprehensive understanding of who you are, your value to your clients, and the things that make you different. Knowing your USP helps you avoid a haphazard, “willy-nilly” approach to marketing. Learn more about finding your law firm USP.
Get Help with Your Law Firm’s Digital Marketing
Black Fin is an attorney SEO agency with years of experience and a long record of Google-topping results. We work exclusively with law firms, and we have just one goal: using the web to make your business grow. Better results are just a contact form or a phone call away. Contact Black Fin today.