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It's a mobile world--embrace digital marketing and learn Google's secrets, Lawyernomics speakers say

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Photo of Victor Li by Saverio Truglia.

Here in Las Vegas, Elvis Presley may still be the king. But for the legal industry, it’s mobile devices that are wearing the crown (or the gold lamé suit).

That factoid probably comes as no surprise to most people. Many lawyers, however, are stuck in the PC era—assuming they have any kind of Web presence at all.

The main objective of Avvo’s sixth annual Lawyernomics conference is to help small firms and solo practitioners move out of that PC-dominant era and move into the mobile-predominant world. The conference opened Wednesday at the Wynn Las Vegas and continued through Friday afternoon. (The ABA Journal is a media co-sponsor.)

On Thursday, attendees got a crash course on more effective digital marketing from a wide range of speakers, including advertising executives, attorneys and technological experts.

Mitch Joel, president of digital marketing and communications agency Mirum, said during his keynote address that lawyers were at a crossroads when it came to marketing themselves and their firms. “The old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore, but the new way is too hard,” said Joel, who likened a typical attorney’s experience to being stuck in purgatory.

Joel emphasized that the ability to connect with people instantaneously and from any location is not going away, and noted that more people in the world have mobile subscriptions than access to electricity, clean drinking water or bank accounts—and that was a study from three years ago. As such, Joel encouraged the attorneys and marketers in attendance to utilize mobile in order to have a more direct relationship with their potential consumers.

“The battle for the direct relationship with the customer is between everyone in the value chain,” said Joel, who pointed to an example of how buying Beats by Dre from Wal-Mart through a Facebook ad created a three-way battle over who had the direct relationship with the consumer. “Whatever client base you serve, you can build a direct relationship with your audience that’s more valuable than if you used a third-party to advertise.”

If mobile is king, then Google is, at least, the crown prince. Several sessions dealt with understanding Google and how to better utilize the search engine as a means of driving traffic. On Wednesday and Thursday, multiple speakers pointed out that Google’s new policy is to penalize websites if they don’t have a mobile-friendly version.

“So far the effects of Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ haven’t been that significant,” said Mike Ramsey, president of Nifty Law. “But it’s something to keep an eye on.” Ramsey also noted that Google is constantly upgrading its algorithms, pointing out that the search engine will filter out websites with high bounce rates (from long loading times), as well as pages that just drive traffic to other webpages.

Another lecture dealt with Google ads and how to maximize their effectiveness. Eli Romberg, strategic channel partner manager with Google, explained how the search engine grouped its results, with paid advertisements appearing at the top of the page, followed by local results based on your location, and then organic results. In order to get the best return, Romberg stated it wasn’t necessarily important to be the very first result, noting that Google recently did a study that found that users’ eyes typically go to the top left when a page first loads, but after eight seconds, they go all over page. As such, he stated that the best way for lawyers to get traffic was to take out a paid advertisement with Google, as well as to optimize their website so that it still showed up prominently on the list of organic search results.

“Always use paid plus organic ads,” Romberg said. “The Internet is a piece of real estate, and you want to own it all.”

There was also a heavy emphasis on social media and how it can lead to business for law firms. “If you’re doing it properly, nothing drives local traffic more than Facebook ads,” Ramsey said.

Meanwhile, Jabez LeBret, chief information officer of law firm marketing firm GNGF, pointed to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram as the three best places for lawyers to advertise.

Of course, lawyers must be careful if they’re going to be active on social media. As Avvo general counsel Joshua King noted during the ethics portion of the conference: “if you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing something on a trial exhibit, think twice before posting it on social media.”

Victor Li writes the LawScribbler column for the ABA Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at @VictorLi_ABA.

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