The Internet, and each of our use of the Internet, has dramatically evolved over the past two decades. When Mediate.com got started in 1996, we were in the business of providing clients with their very first email address, their very first directory listing and their very first web site. Now seventeen years later, our conversations with professionals are quite different and center on issues of optimizing their overall professional “online presence” and assisting our clients to optimize their search engine performance and their “networking with networks.”
One common weakness for many professionals is their failure to capably develop and effectively utilize their professional directory listings. The purpose of this article is to offer ten key recommendations for optimizing your professional directory listings. These directories may include our own (Mediate.com, Arbitrate.com, CollabLaw.com, MediatingLawyers.com, AgreementFacilitators.com, etc.), as well as your additional online networks, including state association listings and professional of origin listings.
1. As a General Concept, The More the Better
As a general comment, the Internet is a “cumulative” environment, rather than a “mutually exclusive” one. The way the Internet works, particularly search engines, the more places you are found, the more important the Internet things you are. For example, you should in fact have multiple strategic directory listings. Each of these listings, ideally, is both a connection between you and a valued, reputable organization (where you benefit by the association) and a bridge to your immediately available deep information (your web site). Your web site is your ultimate “landing spot,” but you are doing to need to throw some lines in the water (directory listings) to induce consumers to make that extra click and find deep information about you. Directory listings are thus both a way of convincing search engines that you are “a big fish” as well as one of your best means of inducing consumers to pursue deeper information about you and to ultimately contact you for services.
And so, in addition to a quality web site to direct consumers to, I do strongly encourage readers to join not only the Mediate.com ADR Directories, but also their professional of origin (law, psychology, etc) directories, their state mediation association directory and other credible substantive national ADR association directories. There is no “silver” bullet to getting dispute resolution cases on the Internet. Rather, it is really more a conspiracy of data points and available information. When the consumer sees your name and consistent quality information in not just one or two places, but at three or four quality locations, this greatly elevates the odds of them clicking through to your deep information web site and ultimately of contacting you for services.
2. Optimize Your Domain Names With Geographic Terms
There are a number of reasons for being purposeful in your selection of domain names. For starters, domain names are not mutually exclusive, but are cumulative. You can have more than one domain name point to your web site. And so, you might have both EugeneMediator.com and EugeneDivorceMediator.com pointing to the same location. The general rule for domain names is “short, spell-able and memorable.” The ultimate test is whether a person in a bar who has had two drinks can remember your domain name.
What is new in my mind, given the “localization of search engines,” is the value of having a place name, very specifically city names, as part of your “domain name collection.” Search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo, have now all become much more “localized” in providing search results. Professionals can take advantage of this by acquiring domain names that include both a geographic and substantive term. Domain names like “IllinoisConstructionMediator.com” or “OmahaDivorceMediation.com” are today far more effective than “SmithMediator.com.” I again repeat that you can have multiple domain names pointing to your same web site, so it is worth considering which of these geographic/substantive domain names will best serve you and to see if they are available. At Mediate.com, we are pleased to assist you with this brainstorming, searching and cumulative domain registration process.
3. Include a Quality (tightly cropped and recent) Picture
The retention of a dispute resolution professional is a very personal choice and a very conservative choice. Consumers want someone they will be comfortable with and have confidence in. They do not want an unpleasant person nor an unproven “Bozo the Clown.” What they do want is deep information about the professionals they are considering to be sure they are both pleasant to work with and capable.
Perhaps the worst mistake you can make with a picture is to not include one. Consumers feel short-changed when you do not offer information about what you look like. They are much less likely to select you from a professional directory if you do not include a picture. As to the picture that is included, it should be recent and a “tighter cropping” than your traditional head and shoulders image. Think about how people present themselves at Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In. Online images these days tend to be much more tightly cropped to the face (the most valuable information). So, consider cropping your head and shoulders presentation more closely, and don’t forget to smile!
4. Have a Short Practice Description that Distinguishes You and Provides a Rationale for Visiting Your Web Site
Most professionals include too much distracting information in their directory listings. If a consumer wants complete information about you, direct them to your web site! What you want in a directory listing is most essentially: 1) why the visitor should select you (what makes you unique, valuable and different; and 2) why a visitor should proceed to your web site (reference deeper information at your web site). The goal of a directory listing is not to somehow tell consumers everything about you, but, rather, to distinguish yourself from the general marketplace as an experienced specialist and to induce the consumer to click through to your web site.
5. List All Your Practice Areas
You will not be found in a professional directory searches if you do not “tick” all of your relevant searchable practice areas. Do not rely on your textual description to be effective for consumers in identifying your practice area. You need to be sure to “check” all practice areas that are relevant and additional professional services that you offer. The more practice areas and services that you check, the more search results you will be included in.
6. List All Your City Names
Most consumers will search on: a) a substantive term (like commercial, divorce or workplace); a professional designation (like mediator or arbitrator); and a geographic term (like state, city, county or area code). And so, a typical search might be “Topeka Business Mediator” or “Los Angeles County Probate Mediator.” When it comes to geographic names to associate with your practice information, the general rule is “the more the better,” but it is most important that you do an excellent job on city names. Consumers use city names more than any other geographic search term in seeking professional assistance, so be sure to cumulatively list all city names from which you get business, or would like to get business, in your directory listings.
7. Specify Your Substantive Case Experience
Again, let’s remember that the selection of a dispute resolution professional is a very conservative choice. Also appreciate that the American professional marketplace is a “marketplace of specialists.” The better tailored your substantive expertise is to the consumer’s plight, the more likely you are going to be viewed as most helpful. Participants do not want this to be your first case generally, nor your first case of their type. They want to know that you are experienced in the specific area of their dispute. The more information you provide to assure consumers that you are experienced in their type of dispute, the more likely you are to “get that case.”
In addition to providing actual figures for the number of cases you have handled in different practice areas, make sure to also distinguish your experience between mediation, arbitration, collaborative practice and facilitation. Again, the more precisely your experience matches up with the consumers needs, the more likely you are to be selected.
8. Include a Video in Your Directory Listing!
Mediate.com and our sister web sites (Arbitrate.com, CollabLaw.com, etc.) all now include the ability to post a video as part of your directory listings. You already know, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” To the extent this is true, it might also be said that, “a video is worth as a million words.” There is no information (other than meeting you in person) that is more valuable for a consumer in selecting a dispute resolution professional than seeing their potential professional sharing “who they are” and “how they do it.”
In our “YouTube Era,” your introductory video does not need to be long (1-3 minutes is recommended) and the production values do not necessarily need to be perfect (a hand held smart phone video is far better than no video). What the consumer wants is “more information,” and a video is a wonderfully rich way of satisfying this desire. A short video dramatically helps a consumer quickly decide whether you are “the one” or not. While videos appear in perhaps 5% of directory listings today, I am guessing that this will be 50% of listings within 2 years. There is simply no “richer” and more valuable information modality for a consumer deciding if they want to work with you than seeing and hearing you “in action.”
9. Provide Links to Referral Sources
One of the smartest things you can do with your professional directory listings is to provide email links to your professional references. This is a valuable and convenient service for consumers. Email reference links allow consumers to get additional information about you from knowing others without bothering you to do this (or even having you know). The very fact that you provide email reference links is itself impressive, even if the consumer does not click on them. In the event that you provide reference link access, and others do not, you will be viewed more favorably. A single referral source confirmation of professional effectiveness is often the key to a specific professional getting a case.
10. Keep Your Information Current!
There are few things that turn consumers off more quickly than feeling like they are reading “stale” information. For example, if you describe all of the great things that you did before the year 2010, but have no more recent information, a consumer, most likely accurately, quickly surmise that, “there is no one home here” that cares enough about me to keep their information complete and current. The same is true with regard to the listing of trainings and continuing education. If your information is “dated,” the consumer quickly wonders both what you have been doing lately and also just how active and “with it” you are. Be sure to keep your directory listings current and complete. They are a valuable investment in your getting cases today, and an even more critical investment in your getting cases tomorrow!
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The short answer is no. The long answer is important to unpack though. As a Family Mediator (also referred to as Family Law Mediator or Divorce Mediator) I get asked...By Amy Robertson