AVVO LogoLet’s take a look at one of the biggest mistakes an attorney can make – devoting time and resources to a service such as AVVO.com. I discussed whether attorneys should use AVVO in 2013. That article focused on how attorneys can benefit from the site’s client review system and discussed the broader ramifications, to the legal profession, of lawyers and law firms devoting resources to the answering of questions on the service. In this post I’ll take you look at how answering questions on the service impacts you as an individual.

If you’re reading this then I’m assuming your familiar with AVVO as a service so I won’t recap it here. The important thing is that, in one way or another, many lawyers see the service as an important aspect of their marketing. Some pay for premium advertising on AVVO while others spend significant time answering questions asked by the public as a way to get exposure. Do I think these things can lead to clients? Yes. Do I think there are much, much, much (much) better ways to get clients? Yep. Do I think those better ways to get clients are a better use of your time and resources? Yep. So…..let’s take a look at where you should be focusing the resources you may otherwise put into AVVO and why you should take a look at how you’re devoting your time, energy, and money.

Relying on AVVO is more risky for lawyers than is taking the time to develop a quality blog

Relying on AVVO is more risky for a lawyer than developing one’s own law blog for a very simple reason – one does not own the content they generate for AVVO. The content is owned by AVVO. With your own blog, by contrast, you own the content you generate as well as the blog itself. I regularly write about why attorneys should invest in their own assets rather than spend money on advertising. The need to focus your resources on something you actually own has several bases. The first is that owning your own assets will yield a greater return on investment (more on this below). The second is that is that when you rely on the resources of others then you take on more risk. Last time I checked, taking on more risk while getting a lower ROI meant a one-way trip to the poor house. So, let’s make sure you take a smarter path so that your office does not wind up looking like this:

Door with foreclosure sign

While the above photo represents a way to get your rent expense down, it’s not the most desirable of options.

There are two reasons why your law blog is a low risk investment. The first is the fact that you own it and no one can take it away from you. It’s true that you may pay a minor expense for things such as web hosting, but you are the sole owner of your web domain and that valuable content. You do not have to pay any money to maintain this ownership. The second thing that makes your blog low risk is that you are in charge of your own SEO efforts. We all know that Google regularly changes its algorithms to improve search results. Owning your blog means that you can ensure that only “white hat” SEO is employed and that you do not run the risk of having your blog punished by an algorithm update. The fact that you own your website, your content, and that you can ensure proper SEO methods removes much of the risk from a blog.

AVVO is a risky marketing avenue because the service, rather than yourself, is the one who owns your profile and your content. This means that they can raise the price or take your content away at any time. Currently AVVO profiles are free or of low cost. There is no guarantee, however, that these price points won’t increase as AVVO continues to have a greater web presence. If you base a large part of your business on answering AVVO questions then you may be in for a shock if your overhead suddenly increases. I compare this to a situation in the mid – 2000’s. Many Las Vegas family law attorneys were reliant on pay-per-click advertising (a platform not owned or controlled by the attorney) and typically paid $5-7 per click. Today those same attorneys are paying $25-30 per click. Ask them what a large increase in cost did to their profit margins. Not owning the marketing assets on which your business is based creates needless risk.

The second risk of relying on AVVO is that you can’t ensure that the site won’t be punished by an algorithm update. This article on the Lawyerist.com discusses tactics used by AVVO which violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. While I won’t speak to the topic of that article, or AVVO’s tactics specifically, it must be understood that when you rely on someone else’s web assets then you have your fingers crossed that they are doing things on the up and up. If they are not then you run the risk of the asset, on which you rely, being punished by Google. This makes using a service such as AVVO more risky than investing in your own blog.

Attorneys can get a greater return on investment through their own blog then they can by answering questions on AVVO

Return on investment is a simple concept. It’s how much do you get back weighed against how much you put in. Let’s look at how this applies to your blog. In November of 2013 we wrote a blog post for a client at a cost of $125. To date that blog post has received 356 clicks. That’s a cost of 35 cents per click (much better than the $30 per click lawyers are paying for Adwords). The important thing is that the blog is continuing to get clicks and will continue to do so. This means that the return on that investment is only going to continue to go up. I feel this math is simple and it’s why I’m of the opinion that blogging (the right way) provides the best return on investment for a law firm. Maintaining a focus on ROI can help keep you looking like this guy:

Raining Money

Ignoring ROI will leave you looking like this guy:

Man with empty pockets

Personally, I would rather look like the former.

Devoting resources to AVVO is bad on the ROI front in my opinion. Let’s look at why.

Paying for a premium AVVO listing or advertisement doesn’t give you an ongoing return. Say you pay $250 per month for a premium service (using simple numbers) and say it drives a certain number of people to your website or causes them to pick up the phone. There may be a profit there but the problem is that the $250 only provides that benefit for one month until you pay the next $250. This is far different than the ongoing return that you get from blogging, which I just discussed. This is why I always suggest avoiding paid advertising options and, instead, focusing on assets you own and control.

Answering questions on AVVO is also problematic. Say you answer a question which gets regular views from AVVO visitors. It’s true that some of these visitors will click on your profile. The problem comes over time as more and more attorneys will offer their answer to that same question. This means that their answers will appear in-line with yours and that the effectiveness of your answer will continuously decrease as more attorneys answer that same question. This is a different from a blog you own and control – no one can appear on your blog but you; you have the reader’s undivided attention. Avoiding the Q & A section of AVVO keeps you from having to shout over your competition.

The final point on why AVVO is bad for ROI is search rankings. I’ve had many conversations with lawyers who feel they “have to be in AVVO” because the site ranks well for general search terms. The notion that one has to be in the directory for such a purpose, in my opinion, is based on flawed logic. Here’s a video I did on the subject:

I see the bottom line as simple. Putting your resources into AVVO is higher risk than developing your own blog and it yields a lower return on investment. Enough said.

Why do you feel so many attorneys devote resources to third-party advertising instead of focusing on their own blog or website? Please chime in through the comment form below.