There are people in the world of marketing who want to nail down where their leads are coming from. I don’t blame them, however, when it comes to SEO there are some challenges.
Clients I have been working with for years know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their online inbound marketing efforts are very cost effective, but for those who have never ranked in Google search or reaped the benefits it can be tough to understand. In this article, I am not out to convince anyone that having a great website attracts new cases. I simply want to point out the challenges of tracking SEO and show some pros and cons and possible options.
Tracking Calls from Google My Business.
When someone does a local search for something, such as pizza, or a personal injury lawyer, they are presented with what we call “the 3 pack”. The 3 pack consists of 3 business listings.
90% of ranking in the 3 pack is: 1- having a place in the city, and, 2- ranking well organically.
If you show up well in organic listings and people discover your business in the 3 pack, many users will never make it to your website. They’re going to click the call button and call the business. In some cases, they’re going to share the listing with a friend.
So, can you actually track calls through Google My Business? Sort of. There are call tracking numbers available, however, people save these in their phone and go to call them in 3 months and they can’t get you. In other cases, the tracking number gets picked up by other sites which scrape Google for data and suddenly your phone number is wrong in 75 places around the web. So, I really dislike call tracking numbers in Google My Business.
There is a GMB dashboard available which shows you how many people called, but, that’s just for people who clicked to call. It can’t track who sees your number on a desktop PC and then calls, only mobile users. So, GMB’s reporting metrics (called “insights”) are very misleading.
Recap: Many GMB users never make it to your site, so you can’t track them there, and existing GMB reporting is highly inaccurate.
Keyword Position Tracking.
Good SEO takes time. Unfortunately, bad SEO companies hide behind that (true) statement. So how do you know if things are taking time because your SEO company is doing all of the right things or if they’re doing the wrong things?
One method is keyword tracking. However, simply using keyword positions as a Key Performance Indicator doesn’t work.
Problems with tracking keywords:
- Nobody is using your keywords. This is hands down, the biggest problem. I work with several personal injury attorneys who want to rank for “Wrongful Death”. Some of them do hit page 1 hit 1 for this term. What happens? Nothing. The only people searching for that term have a law degree. The true traffic for many businesses comes from “long tail search results”. Fact: 97% of all searches in the USA have under 50 searches per month.
- We can’t measure how much traffic a keyword sends. We could up until 2013 when Google removed the data from Analytics. Those days are gone. I can only measure how many people land on a specific page. There is no way to tell what people searched for. They may have searched for “How to sue someone for a parent’s death in a crash” and arrived upon your “wrongful death” page.
- Keyword shuffling. In competitive niches, Google shuffles the listings. I work with attorneys in LA and the 1st page of Google changes around every 12 hours. It isn’t that anyone did anything right or wrong, it is simply Google shuffling things around.
- Personalized search results. Search for the word “pizza” in Dallas TX, then search for it in Los Angeles, CA, and you will get two totally different pages of search results. If you’re not using incognito mode, Google also personalizes search based on your past searches and site visits. While you or I may use incognito several times each day, most people have never heard of it.
- Obsessing. I’m guilty of it, which is why I stopped tracking most keywords around 2012 (I do still track some using Semrush, however, I rarely check positions). I do have clients from time to time who begin checking their rankings almost every day. You WILL go nuts if you do this. Before you know it, you’re wondering “Gee, I got that link recently and I went down 1 position, is that why?” Almost nothing you do in SEO will have an immediate impact and you do not want to start jumping to conclusions about correlation and causation.
- Your time is better spent elsewhere. If you want to track keywords, track them. You can stick them all into a program and look at them once a month. It’s going to cost you 20 bucks. That’s a whole lot cheaper than paying me to track them for you. If you have a good writer, let them write. If you have a good linkbuilder, let them focus on link acquisition.
There are, of course, benefits to tracking keywords.
Benefits of tracking keyword positions:
- A good general feel for site health. This varies drastically from niche to niche. If your keywords drop from page 1 one day to page 7, there’s a major problem.
- Important keywords which rank well get more visibility. If you have a page about “car accidents” which is on the front page somewhere, and someone else has a similar page which displays on page 2 of Google’s search results, your page is going to get significantly more traffic.
- Top keywords get much more traffic. Sometimes, specific keywords are indeed very important. For some searches, such as “dog food” or “pizza” – if you’re #1, you’re going to literally crush the competition.
- Certain keywords trigger local packs. If your brick and mortar business is within city limits, you have good reviews and you rank well organically for a term such as “personal injury lawyer”, you’re going to trigger the local pack. Remaining somewhere on the front page for important terms like this is very important.
Problems with Inbound Phone Calls, Website Design & Chat Scripts.
There are only a handful of great SEO people out there. In the world of lawyers, I’m literally 1 of 3 people who will actually help a law firm. That means we are all in extremely high demand. We charge for our time and turn away 50X the business we accept. I personally help people with their content and links. After that, much of what happens is out of my control.
When I spot these problems I make clients aware of them right away but I rarely press for them to be remedied since people want to run their business their way, and, I am generally helping people who are already successful and I don’t want to get overly involved in their business operations. Still, some of these issues are obvious to me but not to them and they can hurt conversions.
- You don’t answer the phone. I know more than one law firm that does not answer the phone consistently, and others that do not answer between 12PM – 1PM. This is a real screenshot of a law firm’s inbound phone calls. As you can see in the image below, the middle of the afternoon is one of the most important times of the day to answer the phone. Now, in my opinion, an office with multiple employees should be answering the phone during all business hours, especially when potential clients are on lunch:
- Your website doesn’t convert. I am not a designer but I can make some basic suggestions. Sites need to convey trust and have an image of the attorney or person they’re calling. Sites need to have a clickable telephone number at the top of the screen since at least 65% of your traffic is mobile users. Your message needs to be conveyed in the first 5 seconds. (Eg: Call us now for a free consultation).
- Poor chat scripts. I’ve tested some chats. I will not name names here, but sometimes I enter a chat and the operator says:
“Hello, who am I speaking with?”, then
“May I have your contact number?”, then
“An attorney will get back to you shortly”.
I am not a fan. Live chat is wonderful, but, it’s supposed to be a chat! If you invite someone to chat, they are going to want to tell you their problems. I would just hate to scare someone away that may have easily converted.
It doesn’t matter how you’re tracking intake or phone calls if people aren’t calling or if you’re not answering the phone.
There are a ton of options for tracking AdWords (now called “Google Ads”) that go far beyond the scope of this article. And, while I am a certified Google Ads marketer and I’ve used Ads in the past and manage a $20,000/mo account, I am really not a fan of Google Ads. That said, if it is cost effective, by all means, go for it.
Most law firms import Google Analytics Goals into their Google Ads. Again, the issue here is tracking who converts. This works when all of the following conditions are met: The user sees the ad, clicks the ad, makes it to your site, fills out a contact form or makes a call via a call tracking number. If any of those conditions are not met, your tracking efforts fail.
You can read more about importing Analytics Goals into Google Ads on Google’s site here.
Alternative tracking methods.
What I have typed above is not going to satisfy everyone, and plenty of businesses should indeed measure where leads are coming from to prioritize ad spend. So, here are some ways some people track their leads, just be aware that none of them are perfect, and, your SEO person or web designer may not be familiar with all of them.
- Call tracking. You can have a variety of phone numbers. You can have a number for your website which flips when people arrive onto it from Google AdWords. One popular service for this is CallRail. Using Google Tag Manager, a script flips the phone number on your website. Some people are going to bookmark your site or email it to someone else and that number won’t show up any longer.
- Tracking conversion rates. On an eCommerce site, this is easy. You advertise a widget and can measure how many widgets were sold and check out the conversions. On a personal injury site, this gets tricky. You can attempt to measure form submissions, however, the people may call instead of emailing you.
- Asking people how they found you. I personally owned a brick and mortar company for 13 years and enjoyed answering the phone from time to time. In the beginning – there was a solid 5 year period where I took in each and every call. I simply asked people how they found me. Somewhere towards the middle of the phone call, after you’ve addressed what they were calling for or after you’ve locked in your appointment, simply say “Were you referred here or did you find us online?” That’s it. Of course, there are exceptions, and this may not work well for all law firms.
You can track visits to your site from AVVO, Yelp, AdWords and Google My Business with a lot of tweaking.
You can track inbound phone calls using special call tracking numbers, but it may be wise to use numbers which you own.
None of these methods are full proof, and many tracking methods are really designed for eCommerce sites that sell physical goods.
It is good to know what is working and what isn’t, however, if you’re a firm with under 25 employees, whoever is answering the phone should be able to ask potential clients how they discovered your firm and keep fairly good track as well.
Don’t let tracking efforts take over productivity. Ask any attorney in the world who ranks for some terms in the Local 3 Pack or in Google search if it is worth it and they’ll tell you that it is. At the end of the day, links help your site perform and having good content which local people are searching for when they need an attorney allows them to find you.