Misinformation in Online Marketing Studies

Learning how to effectively market your law firm online is a Herculean task. Knowing what to do isn’t easy because the field gets radically altered every time a search engine switches its algorithms. Because of these rapid evolutions in search engine marketing, what was a good practice a year ago could be a self-defeating strategy now.

To make matters worse, search engine algorithms are so complex that studying them in a scientific way is almost impossible. Nevertheless, there are studies all over the internet about how to market your site online. Many of these studies present their findings in grossly overconfident terms that, if followed, can take your law firm’s marketing efforts down a rabbit hole.

Here’s an example.

Study: On Having a Keyword in Your URL

The online marketing HigherVisibility.com published a study dealing with the prevalence of keywords in a site’s URL. The idea behind the study is the debatable online marketing strategy to make sure you have keywords in the name of your site, like “mississippicaraccidentlawyer.com” if you want to market your firm to car accident victims in Mississippi.

The conclusion of HigherVisibility’s study is not wrong: But that’s only because the study does not actually have one. The closest they come is:

 “Should you be sure that keywords relevant to your content are included in your pages’ URLs? It may depend on the subject matter of your sites.”

This is unhelpful, but could be clarified with statistics that show which kinds of sites could benefit from having a keyword in the URL. The study, however, fails to do that effectively.

Instead, the study delves into ten seemingly random and vaguely-defined industries, including “plumbing,” “business,” “government and trade,” and “food and beverage.” Then, using tools at Wordstream.com, the study identifies the top 10 keywords in each industry. Then, the study conducted Google searches for those keywords, and listed the times those keywords appeared in the URLs on the first search results page.

In our eyes, this is woefully unscientific. The results back this up.

The “government and trade” segment of the study is especially disastrous. Among the 10 keyword-stuffed phrases that were copied and pasted into the Google search query field were “government trade policy,” “us government trade and patent office,” (the United States Patent and Trademark Office, perhaps?) and “us government trade marks [sic].” In each instance, any time a keyword appeared in a URL in the results page, it was treated as a “hit” – even if the only keyword found was “government” and it only appeared in the URL as the “.gov” top-level domain. The study’s findings – that these keywords appeared in 52% of the domain names in sites dedicated to “government and trade” – seem useless.

The segments of the study covering other industries are plagued with similar and no-less glaring issues. According to the study, sites in the “industry” of “debt” had the highest prevalence of keywords that appeared in domain URLs. This was especially true for certain keywords. For example, when the study Googled the top keyword in the industry – “debt” – all of the results on the first page had the word “debt” in their URLs. This included the following top hits:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/debt
  3. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/debt.asp
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/debt

Of course results for the search term “debt” are going to have the word “debt” in their URLs – it’s a simple word that will be in the URL of every site that deals with the issue.

In other industries in the study, the number of times keywords showed up in URLs was lower. Of course, this almost certainly came from the fact that some of the keyword phrases used in the study were more complex than the word “debt.”

For example, the top keywords used in the “industry” of “food and beverage” included some understandable keywords like “food beverage,” “food beverage manager jobs,” and “food beverage industry.” While all of these brought up results that had their keywords in their site URLs, the “food and beverage” field didn’t score highly. This was largely because only 20% of the results from the keyword “food beverage service cleaning soiled dish” had the keyword in their URL. Duh. Look at the keyword.

Professional Legal Blogging at Myers Freelance

When it comes to online marketing, there’s a lot of information out there. Not all of it is useful. Unfortunately, following the bad advice can hurt your online marketing strategies more than it helps. That’s why the professional legal bloggers at Myers Freelance provide a free initial consultation. It lets you ask the questions you want to ask, and get the response you need to make an informed decision.

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