Cultivate confidence and motivation
While I might have fallen into content marketing some years ago, I had serendipitously landed on familiar terrain. You see, before starting We Do Web in 2008, I worked as a corporate trainer for one of the world’s oldest and largest banks, ABN-AMRO.
During my years as a trainer, I gained tremendous insight into the human mind, and how effective one can be when armed with the correct information and training.
At the height of my tenure, I had developed dozens of training courses for the bank’s retail mortgage fulfillment center, including a week-long training course I presented to droves of new hires three to four times a month for a year throughout the real estate boom.
This experience led me to be a part of many vital projects that would change the bank’s processes for the better and later gained me my Green Belt from Six Sigma. I felt as though I had found my calling. Corporate training infused my passion for research and writing with my love for bringing out the best in people.
I understood that for someone to be successful at a role, s/he must be motivated and exposed to the correct information in the right way. Whether it was breaking down a customer’s APR on a flip chart, holding a group discussion on mortgage insurance being a sound investment, or role-playing customer service experiences.
My only goal was to cultivate confidence and motivation in the group of diverse individuals I was so fortunate to stand in front of with a menagerie of fluorescent markers and a laser pointer.
The blessing I secretly prayed for
While my career as a trainer ended in late 2007 with the real estate market crash, I was happy to move on.
My husband and I had just welcomed our first child into the world, and the time off afforded me the priceless opportunity to bond with my son and come into my own as a new mother.
Of course, in true Yvette fashion, I immersed myself in books and websites about parenting and child development and used this time to bring out the best in both my son and me.
Soon we were running like a well-oiled machine. My son was all smiles, eating well, napping for hours at a time, and sleeping through the night. He walked early and knew at least 30 words by the time he was 15 months old. I was a proud momma, to say the least – still am!
Alas, I knew my hiatus couldn’t last forever. Amid all the new mommy bliss, my husband and I learned we would become parents for the second time a few months after our son’s first birthday! What a blessing – another healthy and beautiful baby boy.
I stayed home for close to another year when I started to feel disconnected from the workforce. I knew I wanted to ease back into it, so I started making some calls in hopes of finding something flexible and part-time.
I can handle that!
Enter my good friend, Ken LaVan, then a serial entrepreneur and attorney with a budding Social Security and veterans’ disability claims practice.
Ken graciously offered to keep his eyes and ears open for any gig that would fit the bill. Ken would not be Ken if he didn’t try to help a friend in need, so a few days later, I get a call. It’s Ken. He says he just bought a website for the firm but didn’t have the time to manage the design or write the content. He wanted to know if I would be interested in taking on the project.
The opportunity sounded right up my alley, so I jumped on it.
Soon I found myself back in the learner saddle, my destination yet unknown. My years as a Six Sigma Green Belt taught me that to solve a problem and improve the quality of a process, you must first analyze each step.
So, I made it my mission to spend as many hours as I could with Ken and his key staff members learning about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Social Security and veterans’ disability claims process.
It’s about serving others.
Together, we worked to identify the claimant’s pain points and brought to light the issues that were ultimately causing the claimant to receive a denial of benefits.
We then outlined how Ken, the other attorneys, and support staff could minimize or eliminate these issues and up the chances of receiving benefits.
These discovery exercises ultimately lead to the realization that claimants would be denied their rightful benefits more than 50 percent of the time without an experienced professional.
Armed with all of this valuable information, it was up to me to communicate the message to every level of the firm’s target audience.
You can go far with a plan.
I started the task (now known as a “content strategy”) with the understanding that each segment of the firm’s audience would require us to engage them differently. One group may call for details, while another would rather a brief overview on any given topic.
Within each segment, I would also have to consider the learning styles of the people in it. For example, this way of thinking led me to design a swim lane process map to break down the Social Security’s disability approval process for the visual learner and film several videos addressing a claimant’s most common questions for the auditory learner.
I organized my spreadsheet by:
- core topics which serve as the site’s foundation of pages (who we are and what we will do for you);
- detailed topics (help with your application, appeal, or hearing);
- other related topics you should know about (disabling conditions from A to Z, what you can do to help your claim, and why you should consider a lawyer for your hearing);
- disability resources (grants for making your home wheelchair accessible, discount prescription drug programs, and support groups);
- success stories (detailed legal briefs from cases the firm had won); and
- client testimonials.
Later, our content plan would include additional sections, including a section for blog posts to attract return visitors. These topics would center around the news meant to keep readers abreast of any changes to federal disability benefits.
Once the spreadsheet was complete, the staff and I reviewed it for any information gaps and filled them in accordingly. At that moment, we knew we would be creating the ultimate resource for disabled individuals and their families in need of federal disability benefits.
Education marketing leads the way.
Next, we decided on how aggressive we should be with producing the content outlined in the spreadsheet. We set a goal of adding 200 to 300 pages to the site before its launch in August 2008. During this time, I possessed only a rudimentary understanding of search engine optimization, which placed quality text (articles, blog posts, etc.) at the helm of the ways to gain top rankings. We were on the right path.
With minimal keyword research or influence, I set my fingers to keys and started typing, producing page after page of educational material for the disability claimant.
Amid all the writing, I also took advantage of the free business profiles offered by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and YP.com and created listings for the firm. In just a few months, I had met the firm’s pre-launch goal. The site launched in early September of 2008. These were exciting times as we watched the site’s traffic skyrocket week after week going from a few hundred visits to 1,500 visits by the end of October!
Give them what they want, and they will come.
Even our webmaster was amazed by the results, “We’ve never seen numbers like these in such a short amount of time!” he said. “And take a look at the long-tail keywords you guys are pulling in! Ken, you should be proud.” he kindly demanded. I blushed.
Traffic was significant, but it was not the best part of Ken’s story.
The majority of the people visiting his site and reading his content became his clients. By December 2008, the firm was receiving at least 100 contact requests through the website and about another hundred phone calls as a result of the website. This metric is how we knew we were hitting the right people with the correct information.
Though my work on Ken’s site was far from complete, I had finally arrived at my destination – the decision to help other attorneys achieve the same success online. In late 2008, I started We Do Web, Inc. – a content marketing firm for the legal industry.
They say the measure of a good process is one you can scale and repeat with the same success. Well, using the strategy I had developed for Ken’s site with a couple of edits baked into the process, We Do Web began helping many other attorneys gain visibility and leads from their websites.
Social media presents new opportunities.
When we incorporated, MySpace was fading into the abyss, Facebook was mainly a college kid’s pastime, and serious techies had a firm hold on Twitter. Using social networks to promote a business was a no man’s land, and the benefits of doing so were not so obvious. Still, we felt it was important to be early adopters of this new way of “being where your customers are.”
So, we founded Facebook fan pages (now business pages) and secured Twitter handles for our company, Ken’s disability law firm, and many other clients. However, because website content was performing so well and was easy to track, we did not include social media promotion as part of our clients’ content strategies until 2010.
A process built for a lawyer’s online success
Today’s operation is polished and more robust.
It starts with providing our writers and editors on-going training on semantic search and web writing best practices. Our training focuses on satisfying searcher intent for any given search query, identifying and using related terms, and providing valuable takeaways on every page we publish.
Our goals are the same as they were almost thirteen years ago:
- to learn all that we can about the law firm – who they are as individuals and as a team, what they do and why they do it, the cases they handle and why, and what makes them unique in their market. This information helps us strengthen the firm’s identity/brand and establish the tone of its content.
- to gather preliminary information about the firm’s target audience – what questions are they asking; how are they asking them (what language are they using); what kind of jobs do they work; what are the age brackets; income; etc.?
- to gain knowledge about their competitors.
- and to understand their current online marketing efforts and why they were either a success or a failure.
We also learn about our clients’ spouses, children, hobbies, and favorite pastimes through our one-on-one consultations. Forming strong and lasting bonds with our clients is my favorite part.
Content is a tireless salesperson.
Most new clients come to us with an existing website. When this is the case, we also evaluate the site’s existing content. We look for core content, supporting pages, and other related content.
In other words, we want to be sure the site provides the firm’s target audience with the information they seek or do not know they need. If it does not, the start of our content strategy will be to fill in the gaps. We then review the site for compelling calls to action. Does the firm have any, and are they effective? Should the language be tweaked?
If there are no calls to action, the firm’s content strategy will outline what is needed, by when, where on the site they should go, and how they should promote
Finally, we navigate the site to assess whether or not it is user-friendly and leads us to all the right places. Yes, folks – each page on your website should have a specific purpose: to lead people to act.
It might take a link or two to get a visitor there, but once they’re there, they should buy.
Be the dumbest person in the room.
By now, we have pages and pages of notes on a firm. Next, we debrief key staff on our new client and review our recommendations for their content strategy.
We are incredibly fortunate to have such an intelligent, outside-of-the-box-thinking kind of staff. A lot of times, they’ll identify additional topics or marketing ideas we may have overlooked. These guys know their stuff, and it comes as no surprise.
Since 2008, WDW has written hundreds of thousands of web pages, dozens of eBook manuscripts, newsletters, press releases, email campaigns, and other marketing materials.
Our team of writers and editors consists of former attorneys and journalists and English majors. Most of our writers and editors have been on staff for a handful of years, which means they have received (and continue to receive) rigorous training in writing quality web content for the legal industry.
Our director of content production, Daniel Hobrock, does amazing things when researching keywords, handpicking the ones with transactional intent, developing topics, and keeping our delivery schedule on track.
With more than 40 websites updated weekly (this equates to an average of 850 pages monthly) and approximately 2574 active writing assignments to create and manage during any given month, this job is no easy feat!
Though a client’s project moves from our client relations department’s hands to those of our competent production staff, his or her online success never escapes my mind.
Don’t stop improving.
Every month, we perform quality assurance checks on our clients’ content, looking for originality, depth of information, and key takeaways for the reader.
We ensure our clients’ content is different and better than their competitors by providing more information than a simple search and a few clicks on Google would provide. This is not always easy, however.
To make a page stand apart from the crowd, you have to demonstrate deep industry knowledge, which you could only acquire from doing a job and going through the same trials and tribulations.
Do our writers always have this knowledge? Not always, but we do have direct access to the experts — our clients — and we never hesitate to call on them. Often our writers will schedule interviews with our clients to get to the meat of a topic. Think this is a chore? Think again! Our clients love when we become subject matter experts.
Keep them in the loop.
At the start of each month, we deliver detailed content reports to our clients, outlining each post published to their sites along with a link to each page.
When we sign on new clients, we encourage clients to review the pages published to their sites monthly. This partnership gives them the freedom to make stylistic changes to any piece or boost its authority level, though this is not common.
More often than not, our understanding of our e clients’ businesses, marketing goals, and target audiences allows our clients to breathe easy knowing we are representing them properly. (Side note: all of the content we produce for our clients’ sites belongs to our clients – forever, even if we part ways.)
Our clients’ monthly updates also include statistics integral to their businesses’ online success. We provide status updates on keyword rankings (though we don’t place a lot of emphasis on this metric) and increases in traffic, goal conversions, and leads (these metrics are way more important than rankings!).
When any of these measurements is off-target and is within the scope of the services we provide to a client, we’ll launch a preliminary investigation into what might be causing the issue, and if necessary, work on resolving it using our trusted SEO partner.
The truth is, even if a client didn’t purchase technical SEO services from us and there was a potential issue with his or her site, we’d do everything we could to get answers.
My door is always open.
Though we deliver results to our clients monthly, they know we are always a phone call away. We don’t have a receptionist or an automated answering service. Our company believes in direct contact with any team member at any time during our business hours.
We created this open-door policy to receive topic requests and feedback from our clients, but it’s morphed into an advice line our clients use to run marketing ideas by us or ask for help with vetting a new vendor.
Relationships are key
So, you see, the relationships we set out to form with our clients are built on trust and made to last. After all, content marketing is ever-changing and never stops. The best way to keep up with all the changes to online marketing is to give up sleep.
All kidding aside, what business owner has time to effectively operate a business and do all the things I’ve outlined above and more? Not many.
The good news is, you don’t have to find the time to develop content for your website. That’s what we’re here for, and we’re damn good at it.
Do everything to the best of your ability.
Besides managing the day-to-day operations for We Do Web, I am passionate about God and being a loving wife to my husband and mother to our two amazing boys.
I love music, fashion, and my two French bulldogs, who, if you look closely, are featured throughout our company’s website.