AAEPA: Upgrading the Marketing Mindset
A few years back I worked as an SEO Coach for the web department at the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. Although I was very familiar with SEO, there was a lot of new clients and a lot to learn! We quickly discovered that SEO was just the beginning of helping these attorneys with their online marketing.
The AAEPA member websites were outdated. They all had the same landing page content…. And there was A TON of it. The user experience wasn’t pleasant. The sites weren’t creating conversions.
So we redesigned them with a few things in mind:
- Better navigation to help visitors find what they needed quickly and easily.
- More imagery and less text to make the pages more appealing and less overwhelming.
- Free resources that were organized and useful.
- Removing (or condensing) pages that were too short, lacked sufficient information, or were redundant.
- Focus on the free seminars, showcasing niche authority and bringing people into the sales funnel right on the website.
- Rethinking lead magnets.
All of these factors were essential for modernizing the member websites, but the one thing that translated into actual business was the lead magnets.
Prior to my work in the program, the members were offering free reports for download in exchange for email addresses of their potential clients. They got a few each month, but the numbers were less than stellar.
So, we created worksheets or checklists (basically an actionable document) for each firm to use in place of the free reports. The thinking behind this was that times are changing. People are busy. And the target demographic for estate planning attorneys was beginning to shift to younger demographics who needed to start planning for their futures.
A free report—or anything that could take a long time to read is a hard sell in the fast pace world we live in. Buyers are much more likely to exchange their email for something actionable, something short and relevant to their situation—and that’s exactly what these sites needed.
Immediately upon launch, each new site saw a significant increase in leads coming through via these actionable lead magnets, some with increases as high as 70%.
Before a website could launch, it needed completely new, custom landing pages. I led the writers in this effort, taking into consideration important topics, keywords, and location for each firm.
Before I came into the program, the writers were utilizing a list (a very big list) of frequently asked questions provided by the Academy.
The problem with this is simply that these firms were all over the country, and the point of the blog posts was to build SEO, but we were doing the same thing for every firm, regardless of location or their specialties.
One by one, I started researching keywords based on their popularity, competition, location, and what each firm actually wanted to rank for. Then I assigned them to writers via a content calendar which allowed them to outline their own articles based on my keywords. We planned three months at a time, which gave me ample time to assist the writers with their topics and manage as necessary.
Within the first three months (because as you know, SEO takes time) the majority of sites saw increases in traffic. (We did use Bright Local to track rankings for each keyword, and we did notice a slight improvement on the amount each firm had over time. However, rankings were almost impossible to track because of the plethora of keywords for each firm and the fact that the software only checks for the specific keywords you ask it to check for.)
While most firm owners were concerned that their firm be #1 in a Google search, ranking doesn’t always equate to conversions. Traffic doesn’t necessarily equal sales.
All websites that I was in charge of were launched between October 2015 and December 2016. Some were brand new by the Academy fall conference of 2016 and others had been around for nearly a year. Our numbers at that conference showed organic traffic up across the board and increased conversion rates for some of the websites that had been launched earlier as high as 400%.
Creating a community mindset
Attorneys, in general, have done things the same way for a long time. Most of their business comes referrals. Word of mouth. The problem with this is that for the millennial generation, social media is the new word of mouth. And the millennial generation is now the one to target for estate planning. (Among other things!)
This is why we did individual social media trainings with each firm to help them:
- Stop posting business-centric content. It’s always about the audience, never about you.
- Set a schedule based on engagement. Engagement is what grows social influence.
- Curate content from companies with related services. Provide value to your audience, even if you didn’t provide it.
- Create involvement. From giveaways to charitable donations, there’s always a way to get people excited and involved.
Moreover, we took lead magnets to the next level by setting up a response system—by an actual human. Instead of just adding the subscribee to an email list and hitting them with a bunch of impersonal monthly “newsletters”, we put processes in place to ask them if they needed assistance, invite them to a free seminar, and forge a real connection.
Local business marketing is a unique beast
Many small businesses that have relied on good ol’ word of mouth for years are finding themselves in a predicament. They need to reach out to fresh audiences and are at a loss for how to perform well online—which is where most generations are turning for purchasing decisions these days.
Too often SEO is seen as the answer to small business woes, and it’s not. While you should always be optimizing, it’s almost never enough to get any small business the kind of traction that leads to sales.
Key takeaways from the AAEPA case study:
- Always optimize, but never rely on SEO.
- It’s not about how much traffic you get, but how you convert the traffic you’ve got.
- Social media matters. Learn how to meet your audience there.