WordPress Gutenberg – What you need to know

November 27, 2018

If your website runs on WordPress, you might want to pay attention to the upcoming Gutenberg update. Unlike previous WordPress updates, this update debuts the overhauled editor – impacting how everyone creates new content. Read our post below to find out more.

What Are WordPress Updates?
Why is the Gutenberg Update different?
Do I Need to Do Anything to use Gutenberg?
Can I keep using the Classic Editor?
Video of us trying Gutenberg

WordPress & Updates

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. With this popularity comes some unwanted attention from hackers and people with bad intentions.

There are literally millions of websites running WordPress software.

If hackers can find a way to break into just one of these websites, they can potentially use the same method to access others. This gives them the ability to install adware, malware or other malicious code on thousands of sites using just one exploit.

Fortunately, the good folks at WordPress know this and are very proactive in helping users keep things secure. They do this by regularly releasing minor updates and security patches to the software. These security patches address known vulnerabilities & update features. Most of the time these are minor patches, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Many WordPress sites and hosting providers automatically apply security patches as soon as they are released.

Occasionally, WordPress releases a major update that includes more significant changes to the platform. For Example, an update from 4.9.7 to 4.9.8 is a minor security patch, but an update from 4.x.x to 5.o would be considered a major update. The latest major update from WordPress is Version 5.0 and it is being referred to as the Gutenberg Update.

What’s new in Gutenberg?

In Version 5.0 (aka Gutenberg), WordPress introduces a major overall to the text editor used to write posts/pages. This is significant because it impacts thing people do most often in WordPress – write and publish content. The idea behind the new Gutenberg editor is to improve and simplify the process of building new posts/pages. It’s quite a bit different than what you might be used to.

Here is a screenshot of the Classic Editor in WordPress:

wordpress classic editor

Here is a screenshot of the new Gutenberg Editor in WordPress:

gutenberg wordpress editor


Just looking at the new Gutenberg editor you can see the editor is totally different. The whole idea of this new editor is that it will allow people to better control and handle their content. Instead of adding text in one big box, like the classic editor, the new Gutenberg editor uses movable blocks. You can create and customize as many different blocks as you want when making your content – similar to the idea of a page builder.

If you’ve ever used WordPress before you might know the frustration of trying to apply different styles using the classic visual editor – especially in long posts or pages. Alignment issues and problems using headers and font styles could get tricky. If you had some HTML or web experience it was almost easier to jump into code view and apply the tags manually.

Content blocks in the new Gutenberg release should make it easier for users to control the different individual elements that make up a page/post. It’s also possible to save and reuse common elements that might reoccur throughout the post. You can drag and drop blocks to different areas of the page and move them around once they are created.

Do I need to do Anything to use Gutenberg?

Gutenberg will be included in WordPress Version 5.0. If you want to experiment with using it or play around without upgrading your WordPress website, you can install it as a plugin. If you currently have custom pages/posts templates, you might want to check with your development team or web manager before you implement Gutenberg.

At VWM, we always recommend making a full backup of your site before updating to a major release. Often times plugin conflicts or other unintended issues can arise when updating. It’s good to know you can revert back to the existing install if things go south. If you use a development server it might be better to test it there before deploying to production.

Can you keep using Classic Editor?

Short answer – YES! There are a lot of mixed reviews of Gutenberg out there and some users prefer to keep using the classic editor. The good news is that you can continue to use the classic editor, even if you update to WordPress Version 5.0. WordPress has even said it plans to officially support the classic editor Plugin through 2021.

Classic Editor options available by default and Classic Editor Plugin:

We recently updated a development site to Version 5.0 with Gutenberg and it looked like there was more than one way to revert back to the classic editor. First, without doing anything we noticed that when you mouse over a post you see a text link below with the option to use the classic editor, as well as in the drop down above for creating a new post.


If you absolutely do not like Gutenberg and want to always use the classic editor, you can change a setting to replace the new Gutenberg Block Editor entirely with the classic editor. First, install the classic editor plugin and then navigate to the Settings > Writing menu area. You’ll see a radio button option under classic editor settings (screenshot below)

Watch this video of our first attempt using Gutenberg. I took a little bit to get used to and we might stick with the classic editor plugin for now.

Still hungry for more info on Gutenberg? Here are some other blog posts and related info we found useful:

Smashing Magazine – The Complete Anatomy Of The Gutenberg WordPress Editor

Kinsta – Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons)

Delicious Brains – Is Gutenberg the End or a New Beginning for WordPress?

7 Proven Reasons Law Firms Use Email Marketing

November 20, 2018

In this post, we detail 7 proven reasons your law firm needs to use email marketing. Law firm email marketing has a high return on investment, low cost and is less complicated than some of the other types of online marketing campaigns.

There is an abundance of information out there on different marketing channels – which is most effective, which are hot right now, how you should allocate budget etc.  Before you jump into launching any marketing campaign, read this post about why you should focus on email marketing first.

#1 – It’s easy to get started fast


It sounds simple enough but it’s true. Launching a new email marketing campaign is fast! Most lawyers, attorneys and law firms we work with are very busy. They don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to understanding new marketing efforts. They want results.

Basic steps to get started with email marketing:

  • Sign up with an email marketing service (No Cost, takes 5 minutes)
  • Start creating your email list or import any existing lists
  • Choose an email template (No Cost)
  • Create your professional message
  • Schedule to send in the future or send immediately
  • Measure who viewed or opened
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat (Keep it up or schedule future blasts)

What’s an email marketing service and how to I choose one?

choosing an email marketing service

An email marketing service handles the sending, tracking, subscribing, lists and legal aspects of email marketing. In a nutshell it is software where you login and manage your email marketing campaign. You can’t use your regular email account to send commercial email. This is against the law.

Signup is easy, it’s typically FREE for the first few thousand subscribers/messages. Templates, forms and everything else you need to get started are included.

At VWM, we have worked with multiple services.  We like to recommend MailChimp to clients that are just starting out. There are lots of other options depending on CRM, enterprise use or other preferences and each company may have different specific needs.

Creating Email Lists

Most law practices have a decent list of email subscribers. It’s also easy to export/import older lists you have if you are trying to reignite an old or dormant email marketing campaign.

Building a fresh group or list of subscribers from existing email addresses is another option. You can start with clients and/or prior business contacts and ask them to join your list.  A lot of times contacts can be exported from Outlook and cleaned up using Excel and then bulk imported or filtered against lists to compare. These might be able to act as the initial email list building block but there are some important legal considerations (jump to the end of this post for details)

The best way to get started building a new list:


people jumping

Once you sign up with an email marketing service, they allow you to easily create a signup page or form. You can use this link or add it to your website giving new users a place to signup.

Once this form is setup, members of your practice and attorneys can send this to contacts directly, add a link in their email footer or encourage contacts to subscribe in other ways. People who signup up get automatically added to your list.

Pro Tip – Many companies put a subtle link to subscribe to their newsletter in their individual employee email footer message.

Having an email list of subscribers who actually want to hear from your company is ALWAYS the most successful when it comes to engagement and impact. This also ensures you’ll be compliant with your email provider and any laws that might apply. It might seem like a bit of work and you might hear some grumbling from employees, but building a great list from the beginning the right way pays off big down the line. Think long term when building your law firms email list.


#2 – Email Marketing has a high Return on Investment

There are so many statistics showing how effective and efficient the return on email marketing is we will spare you the pain (Google it). Just know that it has and continues to be a dominant force in the marketing channel mix – especially for attorneys, lawyers and law firms.

email marketing roi holding dollars


To maximize the impact of your law firm’s email campaign, use these common sense best practices to get the best ROI. Following these best practices will help your law firm retain existing clients as well as start to attract new attention.

  • Professional Looking Layout
  • No spelling errors
  • Smart Email Subject line
  • On Brand colors or logo
  • Send on effective day/time

Make sure your email marketing message looks professional. You definitely want to protect your firm’s reputation. This also allows partners and members of your practice to trust that providing their contacts won’t be something they regret later.

Spelling and grammar sound obvious but it’s always the little things that get missed. Make sure to proof your email thoroughly, or better yet, have more than one person read through it. Always send a test email that others can review.

Email marketing subject lines for attorneys matter a lot so stay on topic.

Pro Tip – Avoid email subjects like this graphic:)

Think about how many email messages you get every day. Your goal when crafting the subject line of an email blast is to compel a person to open it or at least peak their interest. The best email marketers know that a great email doesn’t matter if nobody clicks and reads it.

All email messaging that gets sent out as part of your email marketing campaign should stay on brand. At a minimum this means using the correct colors and/or official logo of your firm. Font choice is also something to consider if your firm has a standard.

The day and time you send your law firms marketing email matters. Very few people are reading business email on Saturday morning of after hours compared to the work day. You have much better odds that someone will click and open your email if it is sent out during business hours.

Pro Tip – Sending out email Tuesdays thru Thursday from 10am – 12pm is a great time for open rates, but you should test this over time to be sure.

Segmentation and Personalization can help move the needle even further – but we’ll get to that later.

#3 – Maintain reputation and strengthen relationships

Building and keeping a good reputation always helps attract clients. This is true in any business. This is especially true for attorneys, law firms and practices in the Tri-State area that face heavy competition competing for clients.

good reputation matters woman drinking graphic

Sending out an email blast keeps your law firm top of mind. This is great for existing clients and helps cement an already good reputation. The content of various or individual e-blasts can vary, but the message it sends is clear – your firm is active and engaged.

Regularly scheduled email blasts help to build your list and often generate referral business. Existing clients can forward these emails or share with others. When they might be looking for attorneys or interested in the specifics of your message, they know where to look.

Success stories or featured cases and litigation might also be something that clients can promote to their networks or other contacts.

# 4 – Email marketing costs less than other channels

There are a lot of email marketing programs and software suites to choose from. Most of these are free for the first few thousand users and/or email blasts.

email marketing costs graphic


When you compare the costs of email marketing with PPC (Pay-Per-Click), Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing or other digital marketing channels, it’s easy to see how much more cost-effective email marketing is.

Just because the software is free doesn’t mean you should skimp on effort. Put time into crafting a professional message that looks good. It doesn’t have to be long or flashy (at least to start), it just has to look good.

Pro Tip – Invest your time and let email marketing save you money.


# 5 – Easy to automate and segment

email marketing segmentation

All marketing campaigns have to walk before they can run – but automation and personalization can be powerful.

Most Law Firms and businesses should already have some level of personal information from members in their subscriber list – first and last name, address, etc. Email marketing programs make it easy to personalize an email to include a person’s name. You can also send it to them in their own time zone or include their company’s name. This can be done automatically in the software, even if there are thousands of subscribers on your list.


This isn’t as scary to setup and configure in email marketing campaigns. The best way to start with automation is to consider drafting a ‘Welcome’ type email or ‘Thank You for being a subscriber’ type email that will automatically get sent out to new people on your list.

If you have first names of members on your list, you can automatically include that in the beginning of any email message. This is an easy way to save time and make a good first impression with new and potential clients.

Including FAQ’s or general Contact Info, location or hours could also be helpful without sounding too salesy.


This is another very powerful tool, but again, only if you have the time and want to take your legal email marketing campaign to the next level. For example, you could send a message out that only goes to existing clients and a separate email that goes out to colleagues, prospects or leads.

Being able to control who gets what message by segmenting your list can be a powerful tool if used correctly.

#6 – Re-purpose email blasts for newsletters or blog posts

If your business is doing any existing public relations or content marketing, you can re-leverage the existing content in email marketing for even more exposure in other areas. This helps your business by re-using assets you have already created.

Lots of companies are publishing blog posts weekly or print newsletters on a monthly/quarterly basis. If you work for a company that has been considering a blog or even a better SEO strategy – re-purposing the content you already create into email blasts, blog posts and/or sharing on social media is a great way to maximize exposure.

Content can be shared across different channels ‘as-is’ or for best results you can slightly modify to seem unique or better fit a specific channel.

#7 – Easy to measure clicks, opens and impact

One of the things we love about email marketing for attorneys, lawyers and law firms is how easy it is to track . Most popular email platforms automatically include basic information on who opens and clicks on every email you send out in a campaign.

Depending on how many members or subscribers are on your email list, this info can be really useful.

For example you could use it to test the effectiveness of different title and subject lines. Sending out similar emails each month to similar lists is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of titles when it comes to open rates. Obviously the more people who open your email the better – but knowing why they opened it is even better.

This is also a great way to see who the most active and inactive users are. For example, if you notice that there are some subscribers who open the email every time it gets sent out and others who never open at all – you can use that to your advantage. Saying thanks or offering something special to active users and/or purging inactive users can help keep your list clean and more productive.

Summary, Takeaways and Links to further reading:

  1. Email marketing for law firms is easy to implement quickly and in a professional way.
  2. Law firm email marketing can be especially effective at building and maintaining reputation and attracting referrals.
  3. The Return on Investment for email marketing campaigns is high and the cost to get started is low.

Further Resources, Email Program Recommendations and a shameless plug for our agency:

What is the best email marketing program?

This is a question we get asked a lot as an agency. 90% of the time we like to recommend Mailchimp.  This serves most new clients that are just getting started and want an easy to use professional email marketing provider. The setup is fast, and you get up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails in their FREE tier.

We also hear some good things about the email marketing platform Emma but haven’t had a proper chance to kick the tires.

Email List compliance and legal FYI

It’s important that you don’t just bulk import random contacts/lists that haven’t specifically subscribed. Creating lists via import is technically possible, but sending out email to a list that hasn’t specifically subscribed can get your company flagged by your provider.

Doing this is also against many top providers terms of service. The CAN-SPAM Act created specific regulations that apply to commercial electronic email messages. There’s not enough coffee or time to delve into the legal details of the CAN-SPAM act but here’s the main takeaways.

Quick CAN-SPAM Act takeaways for commercial email

  • Applies to all commercial electronic email
  • Requires a way for users to opt-out
  • Prevents the use of misleading headers and deceptive subjects
  • Requires sender to provide valid physical address

Note: If your business is based in the European Union (EU), or you process the personal data of EU citizens, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may be something you need to keep in mind. Read more GDPR here.

Email service providers take care of most legal requirements for email marketing and monitor open rates, clicks and other activity. Not only do you want to avoid coming off wrong to those on your list, but it is important you also stay compliant with the law.

If your law firm is in New York, check out our free guide – Top Marketing tips for New York Law Firms. There is a particularly good section here related to the rules of conduct and staying in compliance.

Links to more free Email Marketing resources from trusted sources

Here are some links to a few free email marketing guides, eBooks and articles. Only links that are valuable were included.

Web Rules for NY Law Firms – Free Ebook
Download this free eBook with the top 5 tips for 2018-19 on the NY Rules of Professional Conduct, Email marketing and more. (*Shameless disclaimer: we produced this eBook)

2018 Statistical Fact Book from the DMA (Data & Marketing Association formerly the Direct Marketing Association) The DMA offers advocacy, innovation, education and connections to help marketers seize the full potential of their data.

Statistical Facts – Table of Contents PDF
Sneak Peak chapter download link

Digital Marketing Depot – Agencies Talk State of Email Marketing
Hear straight from marketing agency execs on ways they use email marketing for client and agency growth.

2018 Email Marketing Industry Report from Campaign Monitor
This 10-minute read is a great guide into the email marketing industry. Do not take it for granted when compared to other channels

Marketing Sherpa
Get this free download Bundle of 6 checklists to optimize your email marketing. This site has been around a long time and has extremely valuable info on a wider range of marketing.

Van West Media selected among the 10 Best Law Firm Web Design Agencies

Get Rid of Bad Links from Shady Sites

November 2, 2018

It is easy to get rid of bad links from other websites using a free tool from Google. Nobody wants shady and bad quality websites linking to their website, and most of the time people aren’t even aware that this issue exists.  A little bit of website house keeping can make a big difference when it comes to website performance.


Bad Links from other websites

(magic viagra or get rich quick scheme anyone?)

We’ve all seen those crappy ‘cheap viagra’ or ‘date online now’ type links. These bad links junk up your email inbox, litter comment forums and load like 5 different browser windows when you accidentally click somewhere.

You probably don’t know they link to you

Even if your website looks fine, you’ve clicked every page and seen nothing wrong – it doesn’t mean bad links aren’t impacting your website’s ranking position. Sometimes these links are years old and might point to an old site that you long since replaced. Other times they might point to pages you can’t even navigate to on your site but exist on your server.

Bad links can be from an old WordPress blog or Ecommerce platform you don’t even use anymore.

At the end of the day, Bad Links from other websites will bring down the ranking position of your website. The Google search algorithm sees all kinds of links – even if you can’t. If Google detects bad sites or links to your website, it’s something you need to fix.

How can I tell if crappy sites link to me?

It’s definitely a bad idea to go clicking around these crappy links to find out. Fortunately, Google hates crappy links too and provides a way for legitimate websites to find out. Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that can help you see who is linking to your site (good and bad). The setup is relatively easy and they give a few options you need to follow to ‘verify’ that you are indeed the website owner.

Once you set this up it might take a day or two for Google to ‘crawl’ your site and gather info. After this it’s easy to see the links to your webstie. Hopefully all you’ll see is legitimate and normal looking links. If this is the cases you’re probably all in the clear (champagne time).

If you see anything weird or shady, then it might be time to take some action.

Here’s an example VWM came across recently of some shady looking links found using Search Console for a client:

bad link - search console example - vwm

As you might imagine, this client was not selling some weird acne cream. Unfortunately we discovered multiple links with similar text on hundreds of other crappy websites using these types of phrases to link to their website. If you have this problem, let us know and we can help.

How do I get rid of crappy links?

Again, Google hates these crappy links too and was kind enough to come up with a way to remove them. You can create a file called a ‘Disavow File’ and upload it using your Google Search Console account. This is a text file that has to be formatted a certain way. In a nutshell, this file lists all the crappy links and sites you want to get rid of.

Uploading a disavow file tells Google to basically ignore all of these crappy sites linking to your website.

It may take awhile to process, but eventually they will get ignored. They should start vanishing from your Search Console account. The websites and links will still exist out there in the internet world, but Google will no longer count them against you when ranking your website.