Thursday, 28 October 2010

Law Firms' SEO: Can Squidoo And HubPages Help?

Following on from my previous post about Foursquare, this time I am concentrating on Squidoo and HubPages.

Squidoo is an online publishing platform and community that lets you create "lenses" (pages) about a particular topic. It is free to join and you can even earn 50% of the company's advertising revenue for charity or yourself.

You can make a lens about your law firm, its website or blog, or your speciality. Either way, there are, as I see it, 3 main benefits from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective:
  1. The obvious one is that users searching Squidoo itself will hopefully find your lens.
  2. Your lens may also appear in the organic results for Google and other search engines.
  3. Linking the lens to your site/blog will help increase its own visibility.
Consequently, the choice and use of keywords and associated SEO techniques is crucial in creating your lense and there are some useful resources on the site and elsewhere on the web to help. However, from my own experience, I found the Dashboard not as user friendly as say Blogger or WordPress, especially as, in the absence of an Editor, a basic knowledge/understanding of HTML code is required. The proliferation of Google Ads, the majority originating from your competitors, is a real pain to say the least and impacts badly on the aesthetics/overall impression. You can turn off other types of adverts, but I have not yet found a way to do so completely. Any tips in this regard would be appreciated.

Squidoo has also introduced a "fun"/"game" element in the form of Rockstar Mode and trophies and badges, perhaps in homage to Foursquare.

HubPages appears remarkably similar. Simply substitute "hubs" for "lenses" and "Accolades" for "badges". Your share of the advertising spoils is 100% of Google AdSense clickthrough revenue and 60% of total hub impressions (although the Affiliate and Referral Programs complicate matters). However, one distinguishing feature is the " HubScore ranking system". Apparently, a low HubScore (40 or 50 have been mentioned in Forums) results in "nofollows" for outbound links. The Dashboard is more professional and there is an Editor (including HTML). Spam is prohibited. Overall, HubPages seems more involved and complicated.

Free means of improving your web presence and traffic are surely a good thing and should not be sniffed at. I have to say that their biggest advantage for me is the "link juice" passed back to your own website/blog, although, as usual, quality content is king.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Do Solicitors Get A Raw Deal?

A fortnight ago, my family and I visited our new Dental Surgery for the first time. On arrival, we all had to complete a Registration Form and then took it in turns to see the Dentist, who introduced himself. My wife and I needed some follow up treatment, so we arranged another appointment and my wife was asked to pay a deposit towards its cost (which had already been explained to us). Apart from a Receipt, no further paperwork was forthcoming. We returned last week, had the work done (which wasn't too bad thanks) and paid the balance. Again, only a Receipt was given.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm sure you're all more or less familiar with this scenario. After all, it seems, certainly from my own experience of other Surgeries and Chiropractors etc. at least, that this is the norm: let the Patient provide the required information, take immediate credit/debit card payments, handover a Receipt and that's it. However, being a Solicitor, I couldn't help but compare this experience with that of my own Clients. Here's what I would have had to do in similar circumstances:
  1. If possible, I would have provided some basic costs and other information before the first meeting to ensure that there were no misunderstandings, especially concerning the scope, time limit and cost of the interview.
  2. In any case, I would have supplied a detailed Client Care Letter compliant not just with the Solicitors Code of Conduct, but the myriad of other rules and regulations to which we are subject, and asked the Clients to sign, date and return a copy. Again, this would, ideally, have take place prior to the initial meeting (to the extent that I could have satisfied the rules and regulations at that stage with any outstanding information etc. following as soon as possible). As part and parcel of this, I would have had to agree a level of service and spell out our respective responsibilities, not only my name and status, but that of any supervisor, the basis and terms of my charges, my complaints procedure and possibly my Professional Indemnity Insurance coverage.
  3. Prior to accepting any payment, I would have had to consider the operation of the Money Laundering Regulations and, where appropriate, obtain and copy satisfactory evidence of the Clients' names and address and perform an electronic check to ensure that they were not politically exposed persons etc.
  4. Following the meeting, as well as confirming any outstanding costs and other information, I would (amongst other things) have had to write to identify the Clients' objectives, explain the issues involved and the options available and agree the next steps to be taken. This would have been repeated, arguably after each and every attendance.
I'm sure I've missed some items off this list, but, even as it stands, it looks much more cumbersome and onerous than the Dentist's.

Do the vast swathes of paper and information sent to my Clients make for a more fulfilling experience? Are such Clients better protected and more informed than other members of the public? If the answer to these and other similar questions is "yes", why should this be so when healthcare professionals are, after all, dealing with people's physical wellbeing, where the risks and potential consequences are, in some cases, arguably much more serious/grave? Furthermore, why are unregulated "Legal Consultants" and "Will Writers", sometimes providing identical services, not scrutinised in the same way? Should the "act" not override the "actor"? What about Accountants, Estate Agents and Surveyors? Why are they treated any differently? If, on the other hand, the answers are "no", why do Solicitors find themselves in such an unenviable and, on its face, unfair position? Have their regulatory bodies not been as robust as others?

I suppose the upshot is this: does the (over) regulation of Solicitors help or hinder the profession and its Clients? I think I know the answer, but what do you think?