What you’ll learn in this episode:
- How your location affects SEO, and why firms in major metros need to market differently than rural or suburban firms
- How traditional advertising and brand building can complement SEO
- What end-to-end SEO is, and why Chris’ company does nothing but SEO
- How long you can expect to work with an SEO firm before seeing results
- Why it’s better to not do SEO at all than do it halfheartedly
About Chris Dreyer
Chris Dreyer is the CEO and Founder of Rankings.io, an SEO agency that helps elite personal injury law firms land serious injury and auto accident cases through Google’s organic search results. His company has the distinction of making the Inc. 5000 list four years in a row.
Chris’s journey in legal marketing has been a saga, to say the least. A world-ranked collectible card game player in his youth, Chris began his “grown up” career with a History Education degree and landed a job out of college as a detention room supervisor. The surplus of free time in that job allowed him to develop a side hustle in affiliate marketing, where (at his apex) he managed over 100 affiliate sites simultaneously, allowing him to turn his side gig into a full-time one. When his time in affiliate marketing came to an end, he segued into SEO for attorneys, while also having time to become a top-ranked online poker player.
Today, Chris is the CEO and founder of Rankings.io, an SEO agency specializing in elite personal injury law firms and 4x consecutive member of the Inc. 5000.
In addition to owning and operating Rankings, Chris is a real estate investor and podcast host, as well as a member of the Forbes Agency Council, the Rolling Stone Culture Council, Business Journals Leadership Trust, Fast Company Executive Board, and Newsweek Expert Forum.
Chris’s first book, Niching Up: The Narrower the Market, the Bigger the Prize, is slated for release in late 2022.
SEO is a complicated beast. If you want to conquer it, you have to go in ready to swing, according to Chris Dreyer. As CEO of Rankings.io, Chris specializes in working with personal injury lawyers and law firms to get them on the first page of Google in competitive markets. He joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast to talk about how the “proximity factor” affects Google rankings; why your content is the first area to target if you want to improve your rankings; and how SEO, digital marketing and traditional advertising all work together to build your brand. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Welcome to The Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today, my guest is Chris Dreyer, CEO of Rankings.io. His firm specializes in working with elite personal injury firms, helping them to generate auto accident and other cases involving serious personal injury. He does this through Google’s organic keyword search rankings which, to me, is quite a challenge. This is a very competitive market, and it’s one that requires a very healthy budget if you’re going to be successful. Today, Chris is going to tell us about his journey and some of what he’s learned along the way. Chris, welcome to the program.
Chris: Sharon, thanks so much for having me.
Sharon: Great to have you. Tell us about your career path. You weren’t five years old saying this is what you wanted to do.
Chris: I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I saw my uncle. My uncle’s a very successful business CEO for many organizations. He’s had a really interesting career path. I told my parents before I went to college that no matter what I got a degree in, I was going to start and own my business at one point, and they were on the same page.
I ended up getting a history education degree. I was a teacher, and I was working in a detention room when I typed in “how to make money online,” probably the worst query you could possibly type in. But I found a basic course that taught me the fundamentals of digital marketing and I pursued that. By the end of my second year teaching, I was making about four times the amount from that than I got from teaching.
So, I went all in and did some affiliate marketing. I had some ups and downs with that. Then I went and worked for another agency and rose to their lead consultant. Then I had an epiphany and thought, “I think I can do this myself. I think I can do it better,” and that’s what I did. That’s when I started. At the time, it was attorney rankings.
Sharon: Wow! Had you played around with attorney rankings before, when you were a teacher and just typing away?
Chris: When I worked for this digital agency that’s no longer in business, they were a generalist agency, but they worked with many law firms and attorneys. I was their lead account manager. I just enjoyed working with them. I enjoyed the competition and the satisfaction I would get from ranking a site in a more competitive vertical. That’s how I chose legal. I wanted to look for something that had a longstanding business. I didn’t want to jump into something fast or tech-related that could be changing all the time; I wanted something with a little bit more longevity.
Sharon: Did you ever want to be a lawyer yourself?
Chris: I ask that to myself all the time. I think about it now, mainly because of all the relationships I have, how easy it could be for a referral practice. We have our own agency and I know how to generate leads now. So, I ask myself that a lot. That’s a 2½ to 3-year commitment. You never know; I may end up getting my degree.
Sharon: There are a lot of history majors who went into law and then probably decided they wanted to do something else, so that’s a great combination you have. It’s Rankings.io. What’s the .io?
Chris: There are these new top-level domain extensions. There are .org, .net, .com. Now you see stuff like .lawyer or .red. There are all kinds of different categories of those domains. Tech companies frequently use .io, standing for “input” and “output.” How I look at it, or how I make the justification for it, is that if you invest in us, you get cases—input/output.
Sharon: Can you make up your own top level or is there a list somewhere?
Chris: There’s a big list. GoDaddy and NameSheet.com have many of them. In legal specifically, there’s .law, there’s . attorney, there’s .lawyer, I believe even .legal. Most industries have their own top-level domain extension now.
Sharon: I’ve seen .io, but I never knew what it stood for. You don’t see it that often. I happened to be Googling somebody in Ireland the other day. Most of the places were using .com, but this was using .ie, and I thought, “What is .ie?” but it turns out it was Ireland.
Tell us a little about your business. What kinds of clients do you have? Is there seasonality?
Chris: We help personal injury attorneys. We primarily work with personal injury law firms that are midsize to large. Typically not solo practitioners and new firms, but more established firms trying to break into major markets in metropolitan areas, your Chicagos, your Philadelphias, your bigger cities that have a lot of competition. We’ve been around since 2013. We don’t work with a high volume of clients because our investments are higher, because to rank in these big cities takes a lot of quantitative actions, a lot of production. We currently work with around 45 to 50 firms, and that’s what we do. We do search engine optimization for personal injury law firms.
Sharon: Search engine optimization for personal injury law firms. To me, that seems like a lot. It’s great. Are these typically smaller firms that are in—I don’t know—Podunk, Iowa, and they say, “I want to go to the big city”? Is that what happens?
Chris: Typically, it’s one of two things. It’s either a TV, radio, traditional advertiser that wants to focus more on digital that has a larger investment. They have more capital to invest. Or, it’s someone that wants to get creative and focus on digital to try to take market share away from the big TV advertisers. Most of the time it’s individuals in big cities because there are tons of personal injury attorneys.
Right now, I’m in Marion, Illinois. There’s a handful of attorneys. Most of them aren’t focused on marketing. Just by the nature of having a practice, they typically show up in the Map Pack. That’s not the case in Chicago. You actually have to aggressively market to show up on the first page of Google.
Sharon: If somebody’s already spending a lot of money on TV or radio or billboards in Chicago, are your clients people who have turned around and said, “I can do better if I put this money all into digital and rankings.” Does that happen?
Chris: I personally am not an “or.” I’m an “and.” You did TV? Well, let’s also do SEO. Let’s also do pay-per-click. I like the omnichannel approach. I think there are two types of marketing. There is lead generation and direct response. That’s your pay-per-click, your SEO, things like that. Then there’s demand generation and brand building.
The thing about demand generation and brand building is they actually complement direct response, and you can get lower cost per acquisition. To give you an example, if you’re a big TV advertiser and have an established brand, and someone types something into Google, you may capture that click because they recognize your company as opposed to someone that isn’t as known. I think they all work together.
Of course, we’re always playing the attention arbitrage game. We want to go to the locations where our money can carry the most weight to get us the most attention. For example, right now, individuals are going to TikTok and Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts because there isn’t the same amount of competition there. That’s where a lot of tension and competition are occurring. It’s a constant game, and it’s something to be apprised of and aware of what’s going on.
Sharon: Is that something you also do in terms of rankings? Do you do TikTok or Instagram or anything like that, or Google My Business? Is it all of those?
Chris: We use that ourselves to market our business because we’re omnichannel, but for our clients, we focus solely on design and SEO. That’s simply because we have intense focus and expertise in those areas. We want to be the best in the world and really dialed in to all the fundamental changes that occur. But knowing that limitation, knowing that there is more effort and sacrifice if someone wants to come to us because we don’t do everything, we like to be aware of who is providing services in those other areas. Who’s the best at pay-per-click, who’s the best at social media. We try to make it as easy as possible to get our clients help in those areas too.
Sharon: How do you keep up with everything? There are so many different things.
Chris: Obsession. I think of it as a game. I always tell people that running a digital agency is like a game that pays me. I truly believe that, because I enjoy what I do. I don’t love the quote that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I don’t believe that’s completely true, but I don’t have the same stressors and I enjoy what I do. So, that’s an obsession.
Sharon: So that’s dinner-table talk.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Sharon: What keeps you attracted to attorneys? A lot of people say, “O.K., I’ve had it.” What keeps you attracted?
Chris: I think they’re providing a good service to the common individual and fighting against big insurance companies. Generally, they get a bad rap, particularly personal injury attorneys. They’re referred to as ambulance chasers. Sometimes individuals get creative, and they refer to me and our agency as an ambulance-chaser chaser. But in general, they’re the plaintiffs; they’re trying to help individuals that have been injured.
I think where they get a bad rap is sometimes people are banging down their doors and soliciting them right after they’re injured or in the hospital bed. Other times, you’ll see these big billboards where it’s like, “How could you possibly put that up on a billboard?” There’s a complete lack of EQ or empathy. It’s like, “Congratulations. You just lost a leg. Contact us,” or “Congratulations. Someone’s seriously hurt.” It’s just the wrong messaging. That’s where they get a bad rap, but the overwhelming majority are truly trying to provide value and help these injured victims.
Sharon: Do you ever work with defense firms or law firms that aren’t personal injury?
Chris: That’s a good question. Our focus and expertise is personal injury, and what I tell other businesses and my peers is that it gives us optionality. If I think we can help a law firm and we can serve them and continue to provide extreme value, we will selectively take those opportunities. Right now we have about 45 clients, and I think three of them aren’t personal injury law firms. It just happened to be the perfect prospect for us. They were in competitive markets. They had these clearly defined goals and brands, and we wanted to help them.
Sharon: How about other legal services, like—I forget; I think it’s Legal Voice or something like that. If it’s a graphics firm that does graphics for trials, do you work with that kind of firm?
Chris: We’ve worked with some. I can’t think of any specifically. I would say our business is more focused on the front end, the marketing and awareness side, and less on the sales intake or operations side. Operations would be your trials and customer service and things like that. At this point in time, we’re focused solely on lead generation, and that’s an issue upon itself. Our job is to overwhelm the sales department. Intake is a whole different ballgame. Sometimes intake has to be addressed, but it’s not us. We have referrals that we give for that.
Sharon: Do you work with only lawyers, or do you work with marketing directors at these firms? Who are you typically working with?
Chris: Most of the time it’s the lead attorney. There are some firms that have a CMO or a marketing manager, but I would say that’s the minority. When they get a CMO, typically it’s at your higher eight-figure or nine-figure firms, and they will start to bring these services in-house. So, most of the time it’s still the lead attorney.
Sharon: You used a term I hadn’t heard before, end-to-end SEO. What does that mean?
Chris: It’s a great question. A lot of digital agencies that are full-service, they’ll offer design and social and PPC. They have a very narrow span of control, meaning you get assigned a SEO specialist, and that SEO specialist is supposed to be able to write content, optimize your site, do your local SEO, do your link building. Look, I don’t believe in unicorns. I don’t think people have the skillset to do all of those.
So, when I say end-to-end, we have a dedicated content department with writers; we have a dedicated, on-site SEO and technical department to optimize your site; we have a dedicated local department that only works with local maps and helps you on the Map Pack; we have a dedicated link-building department. It’s the full spectrum of SEO as opposed to getting these generalists, where maybe they’re good at one thing and not good at the other things.
Sharon: Do you think your market understands the term end-to-end SEO?
Chris: Probably not. I probably should work on the copyrighting a little bit, but I do like to make that distinction. Even though we’re specialists and do only SEO, you can take it a step farther. If you look at how we staff, everybody’s a SEO specialist, as opposed to it being an add-on or backend service.
Sharon: The Map Pack, is that where you have the top three local firms on a map near you, when you search “Starbucks near me” or “Personal injury firm near me”? I say Starbucks because we did that last weekend. I know things are always changing, but if it’s a one- or two-person personal injury firm and they don’t have the budget you’re talking about, can they do anything themselves? What do you recommend?
Chris: That’s a good question. If you don’t have a budget, try to scrape your budget together and get a website made the easiest way you can, whether it’s a WordPress site or a template. That’s your main conversion point. Try to get your practice area pages and your sales pages created as an outlet for conversions. If you don’t have a big budget and you’re in a metropolitan area, I would encourage you to look at other opportunities to generate business, potentially on-the-ground, grassroots business development practices where you’re making relationships with other attorneys. That can carry a lot of weight and get you started.
SEO is a zero-sum game. Either you rank in the top positions or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re not going to get the clicks. If you’re on the second page of Google, you might as well be on the 90th page. No one goes to page two. So, if you’re going to do SEO, you can’t just dip your toe into it. You’ve got to go in ready to swing and ready to do the quantitative actions to get results. Otherwise, you might as well not do it at all. You might as well choose a different channel.
Sharon: That’s interesting. So, if you Google your firm and find you’re on the second page, should you just give it up and say, “O.K., I’m not going to do anything in this area”?
Chris: If you’re working with an SEO agency and you’re on the second page of Google, I would tell you to—well, first of all, depending upon the length of time you’ve been with them, if you’ve given them sufficient time, then I would say you probably need a different SEO agency.
If you are on the second page of Google and you’re not doing SEO, that’s O.K. You could still rank for your brand, your firm name, particularly some of the attorney names, the name of their company. There are probably not going to be many of those. You’re probably going to rank for that. I would find a different way to generate leads. It may even mean working for someone else to generate revenue before you go in and start your own practice.
Sharon: So, being a lawyer in a law firm first and getting your feet wet that way. You mentioned something about the length of time. How long should you give a firm before you say, “O.K., thanks”?
Chris: I’m going to give the lawyer answer here. It depends. If you’ve been doing SEO for a long time and you have a tremendous amount of links and content, it could be a technical SEO coding issue, maybe a site architecture issue. Maybe you need as little as 90 days to truly make a huge impact. We just took on a client in Florida that had a tremendous amount of links, a tremendous amount of content. We literally just unclogged the sink, so to speak, and they’re skyrocketing in a short amount of time.
If you’re in a major market and you just got your website built and you don’t have links, it’s going to take some time. All of these SEO specialists will say it takes six months. That’s completely untrue. It’s based upon the gap. What are you benchmarking against? What does the data show? It could be nine months; it could be 14 months based upon the quantitative actions you’re taking. If you don’t take the correct quantitative actions, you could be treading water, too. So, it really depends. You can see results quickly. It just depends on where you’re at in your state for your firm.
Sharon: Since you work with attorneys, I’m sure more than once you’ve heard, “Chris, I’ve waited three months. What’s going on? How long do I have to wait? We’re pouring money into this.” What’s your response?
Chris: That’s a great question. We try to set those expectations on the front end before we even sign them as a client, but occasionally those situations will slip through. Maybe we didn’t have those conversations enough or they weren’t clear enough. We have a series in our onboarding called “Teach Our Clients Not to Be Crazy.” I’m being really transparent here. Clients become crazy when expectations were not set. If they’re set in the front end when we sign them and it’s part of our onboarding processes, we say, “This is how long it’s going to take to get results.” We’re not three months down the road getting that, because we already told them on the front end this is how long it will take. The same for your operation processes like content or reporting. You report our meeting cadences, your communication preferences, all these things. We do that in our “Teach Our Clients Not to Be Crazy.” That’s the biggest issue. Most individuals don’t have those expectations set well enough on the front end.
Sharon: So, you basically say, “It depends. I don’t know. We’ll have to see. We have to look at your website.” Do you start usually by looking at the site architecture? Do you change—I forget what you call it—the headings at the top of the page, things that are searchable?
Chris: We have a very thorough diagnostic that uses a lot of data from different APIs, Ahrefs, and other tools that help us with benchmarking and setting these goals and KPIs. We look at three primary pillars. We’ll look at their content to see if it’s targeting keywords properly, if it’s well-written, if they’re missing content. We’ll look at their architecture, like you said, to see if the information is easily accessible, if they can Google the website and the consumer can find the information they’re looking for, if it loads quickly. Then we will look at their backlink profile to see if they have enough endorsements. If you’re trying to win an election, you want to get as many votes as possible. If you’re trying to win the first page of Google, you want to get as many high-quality links as possible. So, we’ll take a look at that too. There are a lot of subcategories to those, but those are the big, top-level things we look at.
Sharon: Of course, we’re a PR firm and we do a lot of PR, a lot of article writing for the media. We’ve had SEO companies say, “I want to see the article before you post it. I want to pump it up, add words, delete words.” Do you do things like that, or is that more on the PR side?
Chris: I’ll be transparent. I don’t love it because it hurts things from a throughput perspective and getting it to the end. It’s a bottleneck. It delays things. We do heavy, up-front analysis of the content to try to identify voice and their style. We go through a style guide and try to identify their taglines. It’s very cumbersome up front. Then we try to get their permission to not do the approval process. Not everyone will allow us to do that, but we like to say it delays us. If we’re an SEO agency and we write 40 articles a month, and if the client takes a month to approve them, we don’t have any content to market. So, we try to avoid that when we can.
Sharon: Yeah, lawyers didn’t go to law school for SEO; they went to be lawyers.
Chris: And I think there’s this perception where they think everybody in the world is going to see the content. We can publish the content then make edits post-production. I know that’s a bit different from what you do, Sharon, with PR, but for us, we can control and make changes. You see something you don’t like, we’ll just change it.
Sharon: How important is money? You emphasize that in your own marketing. There’s always a debate with personal injury firms. Do people care about warm fuzzies, or do they care about your wins? What do you look at?
Chris: That’s a deep question. I’m a big fan of Naval Ravikant, and he talks about—
Sharon: I’m sorry, who?
Chris: Naval Ravikant. He talks about people’s motivations based upon status or wealth. Status is a zero-sum game; there’s a winner and a loser. A lot of attorneys love trial because there’s a winner and a loser. Sports is a zero-sum game. So, there’s status orientation. Then there’s wealth. Wealth is not a zero-sum game. Many individuals can be wealthy. So, it depends on their demeanor. I think some of them are more status-oriented and want to be the heavy-hitting trial attorneys and peacock and be the man, but then there are others that don’t care. They’ll let the other individuals shine and they’re more wealth oriented. You see this a lot in society. Individuals will choose to go against common things, but they’re doing it because it’s a status play. It brings them status to be against the big billionaires or whoever. That’s a whole different conversation we’ll probably want to avoid, but that’s the way I see it.
Sharon: Do you basically stick with the marketing they have? If they call you in to do SEO and you look at their website and messaging, do you stick with that or do you recommend a change?
Chris: We absolutely will make recommendations if we see an opportunity to help them. Ultimately, if they’re signing more cases, it helps us; we have more opportunities to do different SEO for different locations, for retention, for security. Individuals that are living and dying by each lead are the ones that are emailing you every single day, “Where are my leads? Where are my leads?” We just try to do the best. If we think we have excellent rankings, and maybe they don’t have the correct copywriting or positioning conversion points, we’ll absolutely make recommendations for branding or anything that can help them.
Sharon: Have you ever let a client go because they were too anxious or they wouldn’t listen to you, or you thought, “This is not going to work”?
Chris: Yeah, I wouldn’t say very frequently, but absolutely. We’ve done it a couple of times this year under different circumstances. At the end of the day, your team has to feel welcome and hungry and motivated to work on your client. I want to have a culture where people enjoy their work. Sometimes we’ve had individuals that weren’t respectful or the best from the culture perspective. Look, at the end of the day, it’s not worth it. I know our employees really appreciate that we have their back when those situations occur. When you take care of your employees, they’re going to take care of your clients.
Sharon: Another question, one that’s important to me. I’m not sure I understand it, but how can you work with a client in more than one market? Can you only work with one law firm that wants auto cases in Philadelphia? If client B comes and says, “I want auto cases in Philadelphia,” can you do that? What do you do?
Chris: That’s a great question that has been debated on and on in the SEO community. What I’ll tell you is that radio and TV own the distribution rights. They already own the distribution. For SEO, it’s determined based upon proximity. I’ll give you an example, and then I’m going to circle this around. If you go on vacation to St. Louis and you type “best restaurants near me” in your phone, you’re going to see restaurants nearest your proximity. You’re not going to see them 10 miles away or 20 miles away. In some situations, if you have a big market, let’s say Houston, you could, in theory, have multiple clients in Houston. You could have one downtown, one in the northeast, and there will not be a true conflict because of the proximity factor.
Having said that, I personally have given up on trying to educate our clients on this because, at the end of the day, it’s what they feel. So, we only take one per market now. In the past, I was very resistant to it because of the proximity. We’ve done our own data studies, but the SEO industry itself, it’s perceived as a snake oil salesman. Any time I would try to educate about proximity, it’s like they have earmuffs, and they’re like, “Oh, another snake oil salesman.” So, I’ve basically given up. It’s what they want; it’s their perception, so we just take one per market.
Sharon: Let me make sure I understand. Are you saying you think it could be done, but your client doesn’t want that?
Chris: Yes, that was what I was circling around to. Because the Map Pack, which is the best virtual real estate we talk about, after about one mile, your rankings start to deplete based upon your physical location. One of the biggest things I see attorneys do wrong is they’ll have an office in Orlando or Houston, and they’ll think about going to an entirely different city. They don’t understand there’s a big portion of their market that’s not covered just because of the location where their office is. It may be better to actually open a second office in the same city than to go to an entirely new city based upon proximity.
Sharon: Physical offices may not be the same today as it was a few years ago, but the law firms that advertise will advertise 20 different locations. What location do you use? The main location?
Chris: First, I’ll say all attorney listings are supposed to follow Google’s guidelines. Google’s guidelines state that the office has to have staff during your regularly stated hours. That’s the big one that most don’t do. It has to have signage. It has to be an actual brick-and-mortar with an office space. It can’t be a shared office. You’ll see a lot of fake satellite offices. Technically, they’re violating Google’s guidelines.
So, when we say they should expand, we tell them to follow the book. Get a lease. Make sure it’s staffed. Have proof of that. Have signage. Have business cards so if there’s any question, here’s the proof. That’s the way to do it by the book. There are many firms that do not do it by the book, but again, we can educate them as to the best ways to do things. Then it’s their choice on how they proceed.
Sharon: I can see them saying, “That’s nice, Chris. O.K., thanks.” There are people listening today who are going to get off the phone and go look at their website and say, “What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?” What are the things they should look at right away, the top three things to evaluate whether this is going to work for SEO?
Chris: I would say read your content first. Does the content answer consumer intent? Do you think it would answer your customer’s pains? Is it well-written? Is it formatted well? Can they find the information they’re looking for? That’s where I would start. Looking at things like links, you need to use diagnostic tools. You need third-party assistance or someone that really understands that. So, I would pay close attention to your website, to your content. Read it and make sure everything’s covered thoroughly. That’s where I would start.
Sharon: Can you set SEO and then leave it for a few months? If you get things up and running, can you just—
Chris: In major metros, typically, you cannot. In most of the major metros, all SEO agencies are an in-house team that is constantly foot on the pedal, doing more content, more links, more Google reviews, or eventually you’ll lose market share. In smaller markets, you may be able to create a big enough gap where you don’t have to touch it as frequently. Maybe there are only a few firms. You can get a big runway ahead of them. But in most markets, it’s a constant game. It’s not set and forget it.
Sharon: Do people ask you, “Should I add YouTube?” or “Should I link my YouTube? Should I link my podcast or blog?” I know you have a blog. Should those all be linked, and does that help?
Chris: Yes and no. I’m trying not to get too confusing for the audience. In general, I would tell the audience to create a link if it can serve the consumer, if you’re trying to transition or build brand awareness. I know you’re aware of this, Sharon, because of what you do for PR. A lot of times, the links are not followed, and they won’t contribute or pass equity. A lot of press release sites, a lot of media news sites, don’t pass authority back to your site. Is it still a good reason to include a link? Yes, because you could transition a consumer to your website. It could still convert. Is it going to help SEO? Maybe. The traffic might help, but will the link pass authority? Maybe not. Should you link your social assets and directories and things like this? Absolutely. Are they going help improve your rankings? Maybe. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t.
Sharon: Is your team constantly Googling your clients? Is it constantly evaluating them? When you say diagnostics, what are you looking for? Are they doing Google Analytics? I don’t know exactly what it is.
Chris: Yeah, we do. We have several tools that track rankings. Rankings are one of those leading indicators. Just because you have great rankings doesn’t mean it’s going to generate cases. It’s more predictive. So, we look at leading indicators. There’s one we look at as an agency. I’m not aware of another agency that does. It’s referred to as Ahrefs traffic value, and basically this number shows the amount of money you’d have to spend on pay-per-click to get the same amount for organic. We measure that on a weekly basis. If we see it increase, great. Our rankings and visibility are improving. If we see a decrease, them something happened. It allows us to take action more quickly on a weekly basis than by looking at your Google Analytics traffic or goals and conversions on a monthly basis, which is more a lagging indicator. We look at a lot of KPIs. We look at leading end lagging.
Sharon: You mentioned pay-per-click and social before. You don’t do social. Do you do pay-per-click? Do you incorporate that, or is that totally separate?
Chris: That would be a situation where we have a few strategic partners we can highly recommend. We work very well with them from a communications standpoint. We feel we’re the best in the world of SEO. We try to find the best in the world of pay-per-click and these other services and let our clients work with those individuals.
Sharon: That’s interesting to me, because I always think of pay-per-click as part of SEO in a sense. There are so many perspectives on SEO. Should you focus on this? Should you focus on linking everything? Should you focus on YouTube? That’s why it’s always changing. What are your thoughts about something like that?
Chris: Again, I’m a big omnichannel person, so I think there are a lot of different places where individuals congregate and hang out. They could hang out on Facebook; now that audience is depleted, so let’s go to Instagram. Now that audience is depleted and it’s going to TikTok or YouTube. I think you need to do it all.
The difference between pay-per-click and SEO in my eyes is with pay-per-click, you’re leasing visibility. The moment you quit bidding, you’re gone. It’s great. You can get that visibility immediately. With SEO, you’re creating a library so people can pull these books from the shelves when they have a certain query. The more content and queries and keywords you target, the bigger your library is, the more opportunities there are for consumers to find you. I look at it more as an asset as opposed to a leasing situation or a liability perspective. That’s the way I look at it for SEO. It just gets better with time. Still today, even though there are all these different mediums, it’s still one of the best costs per conversion, costs per acquisition.
With pay-per-click, the amount per click has exponentially increased. Now, we’re looking at $300, $600 per click. Facebook ads have gotten more expensive, and you’re not seeing yourself on the organic feed as much as you used to. It’s more pay to play, but we still see a lot of value in SEO.
Sharon: I would think it would be foundational in the long term. No matter what else is coming, you are still going to need that. Do you work with your clients on the intake process? What if you’re generating these leads and they’re blowing it when somebody calls?
Chris: We secret shop them. We secret shop our clients. We listen to calls. There’s nothing worse than when we generate leads and the phone’s not answered or calls aren’t returned. It’s our job to overwhelm the sales department. The moment we get any insights to where sales could be improved, we make those recommendations because it impacts us. We can generate a thousand leads, but if they’re not getting assigned, we’re going to get fired because they’re not making money.
Sharon: How are you tracking that? Do you work with people inside for that to work?
Chris: Yes. There are certain CRMs we recommend. There are a few consultants we recommend. There are even outsourced intake services we recommend for all those scenarios. It depends based upon the type of firm. There are some firms that are settlement firms, so they don’t do a lot of litigation. They’re really high-volume. Then there are litigating firms, where maybe their case criteria are super high and they don’t do volume. The way you staff those sales teams is different, so it depends based upon our recommendations.
Sharon: Going to back to what you were saying before about working only with personal injury firms, I would think they’re not scared off by big marketing budgets or the big numbers you might be throwing around. When you read the Wall Street Journal, they’re spending millions of dollars on stuff like this. I don’t know if you find that.
Chris: They’re not afraid to spend money; I’ll say that. It is definitely increasing in most major markets. You’re not going to do TV in most markets for less than $50,000 a month. Pay-per-click, you’re not doing that for less than $10,000 typically. There’s big money in personal injury because there’s a lot of opportunity. There are a lot of different insurances and big insurance companies. It’s a behemoth that takes advantage of a lot of consumers, so they definitely invest a lot.
Sharon: Chris, I really appreciate your being here today because this is, to me, foundational. It’s not going away no matter what comes. Thank you so much for sharing all your expertise with us. If things ever change with SEO, we’ll have you back. Thank you so much.
Chris: Awesome. Sharon, thanks so much for having me.