Editor’s Note: This is the second section of a two-part article. Click here to read part one.
Good content has always been one of the best ways for a lawyer to establish and maintain a professional reputation. In the hands of potential clients, good content demonstrates your understanding of the law and your ability to do what you claim to do.
Today, thanks to the Internet, the options for distributing a well-written and informative article (and all kinds of content) to a wide range of interested parties are vastly expanded. So, too, are the options for finding out if the article was opened, was read and prompted further action on the part of the reader.
Web analytics for law firms
“Not only does the Internet facilitate the wide distribution of content,” said Casey, “it also allows lawyers and law firms to closely track distribution – to know how many visitors click on the content; how much time they spend reading, listening or viewing the content; and where (your website, search or some other site) they found the content.”
Web analytics is a process for collecting visitor or consumer data, analyzing those data and generating reports on the overall performance of these different channels. It extends well beyond your website into virtually every online channel your law firm might be using.
“In the early days, web analytics programs focused on the simple measurement of activity on a law firm’s web site,” said Casey. “Today, a good law firm website still contains useful information about the firm and its services, but the site functions more like an interactive hub to which all of the firm’s online content distribution efforts are tied.”
In addition, most social media sites have their own built-in analytics programs that can be accessed for more details about activity on your accounts on those sites.
The popular Google Analytics program is free and yields information about site visitors, including number of visitors (unique, new and repeat), page views, repeat rate, visit length, page view length, page view per visit, bounce rate (those who leave quickly from a given page), entry pages (where visitors enter you site), exit pages (where visitors leave your site) and referral sources (direct traffic, search engines and other referral sites).
Among other things, Google Analytics can chart data over time, compare data month-by-month or year-by-year, and internally compare different sets of results.
“Other commercial web analytics programs allow the site administrator to ‘dig deeper’ into the data,” said Casey. “Most analytics programs will record detailed information at the user level, allowing administrators to track the number of times a given user came to the site, which pages he or she viewed and, in some cases, the location from which that user is connecting.”
“At Tenrec, we combine basic Google Analytics with a program called Urchin (essentially, Google’s commercial analytics product) to obtain different levels of results for our clients,” said Casey. “There are many programs out there. The one you select should be determined by how you plan to use the results.”
It is important to remember that no performance metric is inherently bad or good. A limited number of the right kind of people visiting your content and reaching out to your firm is a better result than hundreds of visitors who take no action.
Strategic content marketing and web analytics for law firms
“Web analytics programs are capable of generating a vast amount of information,” said Casey. “There are far too many metrics for users to process and interpret. Measurement tools are only useful when there is something specific to measure.
“The challenge is not to get more data, which can needlessly complicate your decision-making,” said Casey, “but to get better data. Be strategic. What is the purpose of this online content campaign (within the context of our business goals), and which select measurements will indicate progress towards achieving this goal?”
Let’s go back to that article on patent reform. You post it on your website. You reference it in your blog. You e-mail it to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources. You post it (with links back to your site) on a variety of social media sites and content syndication sites.
On your website, analytics will let you know who visited the page and how they got there. In addition, you will discover if they stayed a while, read the article and downloaded a copy.
“If no one comes or if visitors take a quick look and ‘bounce,’ you know that there is something wrong with the content,” said Casey. “The subject is not newsworthy. The headline or keywords need work. The article is too long or too short. It is too dense and needs shorter lines and subheads, to encourage skimming. It is too casual or too filled with legal jargon. In other words, it needs work.”
An e-mail analytics program will let you know who opens the e-mail and clicks on the link. Other analytics programs will indicate how your article fares in the blogosphere or is shared or re-tweeted on social media and content syndication sites.
The information generated by web analytics is a valuable tool to help lawyers and law firms plan — and continuously improve — their content and their online content distribution campaigns.