What you’ll learn in this episode:
About Ronnie Deaver
Ronnie Deaver is the founder of NoBull Marketing, a lead generation firm for lawyers. Specializing in Google Ads and Google My Business, NoBull is know for its “No B.S. Guarantee” and fluff-free services. Before founding NoBull, Ronnie was Director of Operations and Director of Web Development & SEO at SMB Team, a legal marketing and coaching firm.
SEO has changed dramatically over the last five years, but one thing remains the same: keep Google happy, and Google will reward your firm with higher rankings. Ronnie Deaver, CEO of NoBull Marketing, has figured out exactly how to do that for his legal clients. He joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast to talk about why Google My Business is so important for law firms; how to get more valuable online reviews; and why your website still matters—but not for the reasons you might think. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Welcome to the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst Podcast. Today my guest is Ronnie Deaver, who is CEO of NoBull Marketing. NoBull Marketing is a lawyer-exclusive marketing firm. In this session, we’re going to be touching on three areas: search engine optimization or SEO, Google My Business and Google Ads. They all play a role in generating leads for your firm. They can also make your head spin, as they have mine, but Ronnie’s going to lay it out for us clearly. Ronnie, welcome to the program.
Ronnie: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Sharon: So glad to have you. First of all, tell us about your career path, how you got here.
Ronnie: My career path probably started around 10 years ago, and it was a very unexpected way to get into marketing as a whole. I moved to Boston, and for anyone who wonders why, it’s a very stereotypical story: I chased a woman. The woman did not work out, but the city did. While I was there, I was very broke. I went on Craigslist—this is one of my favorite stories—and found a guy who was like, “Hey, I need help with my website.” I met with him at a McDonald’s, and the first thing he said to me was, “Hey man, I want a website, but what I really want is to show up number one on Google.” In my head, I was like, “I don’t know how to make that happen, but if you pay me this much per month, I’ll make it happen for you.” So, I got my first recurring client. Fortunately I succeeded, and the rest is history from there.
As it relates to lawyers, I got involved with lawyers three or so years ago. From then on, I’ve been sold that they’re the people I want to work with. As far as I’m concerned, it’s almost like a spiritual calling. I have so much respect for lawyers because they literally raise their hands and say, “Yes, I’m willing to get involved with people at the worst times of their lives.” They’re crazy. That’s insane to be like, “People going through the most emotional problems of their lives, when they’re at their worst and their lowest, I’m going to help those people.” I’m like, “Wow! I want to help those people help other people.” I’ve been working with lawyers ever since.
Sharon: Why are they at the lowest? Because they’re lawyers, because they went to law school?
Ronnie: No, they’re helping people who are at their lowest.
Sharon: I see. I get it.
Ronnie: If you’re getting a divorce, you’re pretty emotionally stressed. If you’re going through a criminal case, you’re usually not your happiest person at that time. What I respect about lawyers is they put a lot of training and time and willingness into helping people who are not coming to them when they’re super chippy and cheery and excited. They’re usually unhappy; they’re usually trying to solve a big problem; they need help; they can be emotionally touchy. It’s not easy to be a lawyer. You’re dealing with people at the worst, but these lawyers are volunteering to do that. It’s a cool career. While I couldn’t be a lawyer—I wasn’t destined for that—I want to help those lawyers build better lives and build better businesses for themselves so they can help more people.
Sharon: That must keep you very busy. You answered my question. I was going to ask if you had thought about law school yourself.
Ronnie: I did, but I’m one of those guys that’s more of intense action than intense thought. I thought about it, and I was like, “Man, this is not my destination.” I’m a very clearcut, no B.S. guy, and the law is a little—there’s a lot of negotiation. There’s no clearcut “This is right. This is wrong.” It’s not that simple, and I’m a simple guy in that sense. I’m like, “This is how we do it. This is what’s going to work. I’ve tested it and I’ll evolve that over time.” I’m not destined for that high level of nuance and thought that lawyers need. I thought about it, but it’s not me as a person.
Sharon: That’s interesting. I’ll have to think about it. I like the idea about intense action. You’re a person of intense action and not intense thought, and lawyers are so thoughtful and think everything through. What keeps you attracted, then? Why, after years now, have you continued to work with lawyers?
Ronnie: The biggest thing is because they’re so intensely thoughtful, they’re also willing to recognize that intense thought doesn’t make a business. That’s the cool thing about business; it inherently is this weird balance of both. You have to have to incredibly good thinking. You have to think and know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, but you can’t think your way to success. You also have to take a lot of action, action that you don’t know if it’s going to be profitable; action you don’t know if it’s going to work; action even when it’s hard; action when you’re having a bad day. It’s a combination of both.
What I love about lawyers is that oftentimes they’re very driven people if they went through law school. They’re like, “Hey, I know I have this weakness. I know I can think well, but I don’t know what I need to do to act.” They’re very willing, if given appropriate guidance and coaching, to take real, major action and have success. When I work with a lawyer, I’m usually quite confident. In almost every circumstance, I can work with that lawyer and they’re like, “Yes, I want to make this business work,” and I’m like, “Great. Do this, this and that. This is what we found works. If we follow these steps, we’re going to make you money.” They’re like, “Great, I will follow the steps,” and they do it and they execute.
If I work with a restaurant and I work with somebody who’s not quite as driven as a lawyer, you can end up with a lot less successful story. The success stories I get with lawyers are incredible. I’ve got one woman right now, and when I met her, she was basically facing bankruptcy. Now she’s growing so fast and hiring because she can barely keep up with the caseload. They’re struggling to follow up with their leads. That delta, that change, is so common in the lawyer space because once given direction, they run with it because they’re so driven. I love it, and I have so much energy for it.
Sharon: That’s great. I’d like to know some of the lawyers you know. Don’t you find resistance sometimes? Resistance like, “I know. You don’t know. I’m a lawyer. I know how to do that.” Not to knock anybody, but it’s like, “I know how to do whatever needs to be done, whether it’s marketing or whatever.” Do you find that?
Ronnie: I think that’s broadly true for most marketers in working with lawyers. I have a unique experience with lawyers as an individual because of the way I come off and the way I speak to people. The way I think and talk and approach people is very forward. It’s no B.S. It’s like, “Hey, this is what I think. This is why. This is going to be the outcome if you do this and the outcome if you don’t.” I’m very honest and transparent.
Maybe you have seen my guarantee—I won’t go into it right now—but if I don’t think I can make you money, I’m not going to charge you, basically. If I don’t think I can succeed for you, I’m going to tell you I can’t, and I won’t take you on as a client. I make it very clear to people that I’m not trying to sell you anything. Either you want the thing I do and I can make you money, or you don’t want the thing I can do or I can’t make you money, and we shouldn’t work together. When I come to people with that approach and I’m that transparent, that no-B.S., and I have that wiliness to not take your money, and I’m not trying to scam you or sell to you regardless of your benefit, people will come to trust me a lot quicker. They’re going to say, “This guy actually has integrity.”
Character and integrity building is something I care a lot about. Because I approach my business and every person I speak with like that, I usually get very little resistance, because at that point, they’re like, “Hey, I actually trust this guy.” That resistance is usually coming from fundamentally they don’t trust the person they’re talking to. That’s not usually an experience I have, because I will willingly stop working with somebody when I’m like, “I think you should focus on a different investment, because I don’t think you’re getting the ROI from me for whatever circumstances. I think you should go to do this.” I do that even to my own detriment, because my fundamental goal is that I want lawyers to build better businesses. Sometimes that includes me and sometimes that doesn’t. I’m willing to say that regardless.
Sharon: I can see how that can engender trust and less resistance. You’re in area we’ve worked in, but not so much as a hands-on area. It’s something that really needs to be straightened out. SEO has come a long way since the first websites and I could tell people, “Do it yourself.” That can’t be done anymore. What’s the difference between SEO, search engine optimization, Google My Business and Google Ads? Can you explain that all?
Ronnie: I find the easiest way to explain it is to envision an actual search. Any lawyer listening, do a search for “divorce lawyer New York City.” I chose New York City because it’s going to have tons of searches and a lot of competition. If you do that search, what you’ll see immediately at the top is Google Ads. You’re going to see the new local service ads. I should say newer; it’s been out for years now. That’s where you see maybe an image of a lawyer and their reviews. Under that, you’ll see text ads. Those are ads that literally just have text on them. Both of these, though, are a form of Google Ads. Google Ads, they’re great. A lot of people have had mixed experiences, but the great thing about Google Ads is you can pay to play, and it works if it’s done right, if you’re doing it with a professional who knows how to fight Google.
Here’s the thing: Google Ads is designed to spend your money, not make you money. Think about who’s running it. Google wants to make money. They don’t really care that much about you. They just want to make money. But when you work with a professional whose goal is to make you money, like me, my goal is to say, “Hey, Google, I don’t want you to take my money. I want to make sure we’re making money.” Anyway, Google Ads can be really profitable if you spend this much to get that much. So, that’s Google Ads, and basically it’s pay to play. You pay to advertise. You get clicks. Those clicks turn into calls. Those calls turn into cases. You run the numbers. You try to make it profitable. That’s Google Ads you see at the very top.
Interestingly enough, as you mentioned, a lot has changed over the last 10, 15 years in the SEO/Google world. What’s right below Google Ads now—and this didn’t used to be true—is Google My Business, otherwise known as the Map Pack or the Three Pack. There are a lot of different names for it. That’s the next thing, where you see names and reviews and a literal map. Back about 10, 15 years ago, you saw organic results first. You would see ads, of course, but then you would see organic results, your typical text search results, and then you would see a map under that. This was a major shift that happened roughly five years ago, where Google My Business was completely allotted to being above organic results.
Nowadays, what I talk to lawyers most about is that Google My Business shows up above all of your organic results. This is where I think you should put your effort into on the organic side. Google My Business is its own standalone profile. It has a lot of ranking factors that are a little bit different than SEO. It’s going to have ranking factors based on reviews, how active you are on the profile. Are you making posts? Are you uploading photos? Have you added your services? Have you added your products? Are you doing Q&As? Are you responding to your reviews? There’s a lot of grunt work, which we’ll talk about later, that goes into Google My Business as a platform for ranking on there.
Quick caveat there: one of the big differences from traditional SEO—when people say, “I want to be ranked one”—is on Google My Business, you can get to rank one, two or three, but you’re never going to own that spot 100% of the time. It doesn’t happen. Google My Business is always switching them out. There’s no owning rank one 100% of the time in your market, especially in a bigger market. So, the name of the game with Google My Business, because it’s so dynamic, is not just to rank one. It’s the percentage of time that you own rank one, otherwise known as your market share or your share of local voice, which are just different ways of saying how often you show up in the top three. So, just remember that, people. The big thing that’s changed from SEO to focusing on Google My Business is instead of owning that rank one spot and owning it permanently for years, you’re talking about a percentage of time, literally, in a given day. If a thousand searches are made in one day, you’re trying to have maybe 20% of that, not 100% like you would in the old days, which is traditional SEO.
Beneath is, of course—if you search “divorce lawyer New York City,” we saw the ads; we saw Google My Business. Right beneath that is your traditional SEO. I personally don’t promote a lot of traditional SEO anymore. The big reason for that is that nowadays there are all these aggregators: Super Lawyers, Lawyers.com, Justia, FindLaw. These guys are spending millions and millions of dollars a year to own these. I’ve found that even if you could rank here—and you can with sufficient effort, but the value you get out of it, plus the chances of your ranking are so low that it’s not worth the ROI. I did the tracking once. The average website tracker converts 3%. You’re going to put all this effort in, and you get 300 extra people on your website. That’s like 10 calls. 300 people, that could be a big number for a lot of business owners, especially for the level of SEO they can commit to, but it’s only 10 calls. Making that profitable is very hard.
Regardless, that’s your three fundamental separations between Google Ads that show up at the top, pay to play. Google My Business, which is where I now recommend people put the majority of effort because it’s at the top. More importantly, you’re not competing with Findlaw, Super Lawyers, Avvo, any of those guys on Google My Business. You’re just competing with the local people in your market. It’s a much less competitive market while still having all the volume of everyone in your area searching for it. Below that are organic SEO results. That covers the three.
Sharon: Let’s say I’m a family lawyer and I’ve never done any of this. I come to you and say, “I have money to put behind it. Can you get me to the top or near the top?” Is that possible today? Do I have to redo my website with content?
Ronnie: Yes, it’s absolutely possible. Here’s the thing. SEO and Google My Business, they still have a relationship together. Do you have to do everything as crazy and intense as you used to have to do with SEO? People used to think with SEO, “We have to redo the website, and we’ve got to make millions of pages of content. We’ve got to do that,” and it’s this whole giant affair. You don’t have to do that anymore. However, your website still does affect your Google My Business because it scans your website and uses that for context of what services you offer. If you say you’re an estate planning lawyer, for example, Google wants to see that you have pages for probate, pages for estate planning, pages for wills, pages for trusts, because it’s going to scan your website and use that as context.
But here’s the thing. This is the big changing in mindset. It’s not about those pages’ rankings. Those pages are never going to rank. I don’t give a crud if anyone ever Googles and finds that page. That’s not the goal when you’re focusing on Google My Business, at least. The goal is that Google scans them to help it understand what your business does, and then it’s more likely to rank your Google My Business profile higher on that Map Pack rather than your actual page.
Here’s the other reason I love Google My Business. Google My Business only shows up on the searches where people have literally raised their hands and said, “I need a lawyer right now.” It doesn’t show up when they’re saying, “Should I get a lawyer?” or “Can I avoid getting a lawyer?” or any of these other research terms. It literally only shows up when people say, “Hey, I want to hire a lawyer right now.” So, the leads you get from it, the people who call you, they’re usually very close to making a decision. You’re putting effort into showing up in front of people right when they need a lawyer, which is why it can have a high conversion rate and why it can be so profitable.
But yes, you can absolutely start ranking. A lot of my clients rank within as little as 90 days. That’s possible. The reason it’s possible is because if you put the sufficient grunt work into the profile—grunt work being the posts, photos, Q&As, getting reviews—reviews alone are like 35% of the factor. Put that grunt work in, and even a small boost in your ranking on Google My Business can easily turn into an extra 10, 15, 20 calls a month. 10, 15, 20 calls, maybe that’s three, four or five consultations. If you close one of those with an average case value of $3,000 to $5,000, you’re already starting to get profitable from what you’re spending on somebody like me. The ROI to time factor with Google My Business is so much better and so much faster than whatever SEO that was in the past, where it’s 12 months or 24 months to float an expense, and maybe $30, 40 grand a year for years. Google My Business doesn’t have that factor. You can go a lot faster.
Sharon: You still have to do a lot of SEO behind the scenes. It shows up in a different way. Tell us more about the grunt work. Do you do the reviews? Are you doing the photography? Are you prodding your clients, saying it’s time to write an article or whatever?
Ronnie: Yes, so we do as much of the grunt work as we humanly can. This what I talk about the whole time. We’re not selling back magic. We’re not selling a magic pill that solves all your problems. What we sell is grunt work. We know if we put this work in, it pays. So, we handle all the on-page SEO. We’ll go through and optimize your website fully. For anybody who wants to hear these terms, some of these will be a little technical. We’re not going too far into them, but metatitles, metadescriptions, local schema, image alt text, image compression, website speedup stuff. All your basics of having a website that makes sense to Google so they know your name, your address, your phone number, what you do, we’ll handle all that.
Then on the setup side of Google My Business, there’s actually quite a lot. One of the things people don’t realize is that five or eight years ago, Google My Business was a set-and-forget thing. You put your name, your info, your category and never thought about it again. Maybe you get a review every now and then. Nowadays, they’ve turned it into a quasi-social platform. I want to be clear here: it’s a terrible social platform. Never think of it as a social platform. But even if you’re not going to get views or likes or whatever on it, doing that activity still makes Google happy, which means you’re more likely to rank higher. It’s about making Google happy, not about getting profile views or image likes. In terms of setup, you can put all that basic information in: your name, address, phone number, description.
Nowadays, they’ve recently—and I say recently as in the last couple of years—they’ve added functionality where you can add literally every service you offer. Let me give you an example. When I work with a criminal lawyer, they’re not just a criminal lawyer. They do drug crimes; they do manslaughter; they do criminal deportation. They do all these different subcategories. Even below that, a drug crime lawyer is not just a drug crime lawyer. It’s also Xanax crime, meth crime, marijuana crime. You can break this down. For our average client, we’re adding 50 to 100 individual services, breaking down literally every single thing they do. We’re adding 100 words of extra context into the back of the profile, putting every single thing they do. Again, that gives Google more context of who you are and what you do, and it makes it easier for you to rank. The cool thing is when you do rank, if somebody did want a marijuana crime lawyer near me, Google literally would say, “Provides service: marijuana crime lawyer.” You’re more likely to get the call because not only did you rank higher, but you showed that you’re a specialist in that industry.
You can also do products. Products are basically a visual version of that. You get to do the same thing, but you put photos and you can link to a certain page on the website. It has a little more of a visual component to it, but again, it’s another way of telling Google who you are and what you do. We do all of that on the setup side.
Then you have the ongoing side. On the ongoing side, again, we do all this grunt work. We write a blog post every single month. Lesson learned; I now only work with J.D. holders to write blog posts for lawyers. I will never have somebody who has not gone to law school write a post for a lawyer. No lawyer likes that. I’ve never had a problem with a lawyer now that I only have people who went to law school writing it. I had lots of issues before, but we’ve done that for years now, no problems. So, we have an actual law student, somebody who went to law school, got their J.D., write the blog posts so the lawyer doesn’t have to.
Then we go further than that. We have posts on Google My Business. We’ll upload photos. If we have to, we have stock photos; even stock photos are better than no photos. We do send a little automated text asking lawyers, “Hey, send me a photo if you have it. If you have a real one, I’ll take it.” I make it as easy as if you just respond to a text, I’ll handle uploading the photo. So, we ask for those photos or we post our own.
We’re going to be uploading our own questions and answers. People don’t realize this, but you can actually ask yourself a question on Google My Business and answer it. You don’t have to wait for somebody to ask you a question. That’s a whole new functionality. A couple of years ago, Q&As didn’t even exist. Now Q&As will do this. Say I have a family lawyer. I’ll say, “Hey, what’s the process of divorce?” and I’ll ask myself that question. Then, J.D. holders will write a 300-word response and post that there. We’re adding 10 of those a month; we’re adding 3,000+ characters of words to the profile proving to Google that we’re an expert and know what we’re doing. Again, more and more grunt work, everything you can do.
Finally, on the review side, I can’t do it for you fully. People have tried completely outsourcing but your conversion rate will be terrible. If I do it for you completely, I’ll get one out of every 10 people to leave a review for you, which is a waste. What I have done—and I’ve gotten this up to a 40% conversion rate, so four out of 10 will leave of review of you. I set up a very simple flat automation for our clients, where all they have to do is give me a name, a phone number and an email, and we’ll automatically send three to six follow-ups by SMS asking them to leave a review. It’ll follow up over 10 days. It’s that follow-up that makes a big difference, because the first time you ask, they’re never going to leave a review. You’ve got to ask at least two or three more times, and they’ll do it on the follow-up. That gets about a 40% conversion rate. Most of our clients are getting two to five, sometimes 10 new reviews a month.
When you combine all that together, what we end up seeing is often between 20% and 30% lift month over month. By lift, I mean an increase. If they’re getting 30 calls now, next month I’d see maybe 40 calls. The next month I’d like to see 50, 60 calls. The next month I’d like to see 60, 70 calls, so that at the end of it, I have a lot of clients. Within six months, they’ve doubled their call volume. When you’re doubling your call volume, that pretty easily turns into quite a bit more revenue.
Sharon: Wow! But you’re saying, though, you still have to do all the stuff we used to do. It’s the stuff we’re talking about, just on your website. You’d come in and say, “Let me change the tags. Let me change this.” You still have to do that, even though people aren’t coming to the website directly; they’re coming to the ads or Google My Business. When you add, let’s say, 15 more services, is that behind the scenes? Like if they search “criminal lawyer in New York City” and then they click on that and see, “Oh, this guy does all this criminal stuff,” is it behind the scenes?
Ronnie: It’s completely behind the scenes. The customer will almost never see it unless it showed up on a very specific search. Here’s the thing: it’s in the profile of Google My Business itself. It’s not a thing anybody can click through to. It’s not a thing somebody can explore or open up. Products are a little different. Products you can click through and explore, but services are explicitly a backend thing, so Google My Business knows exactly what your services are. They sometimes use it where the customer can see it says “provides” and whatever the service is. That will sometimes show up, but you can’t control it. It’ll sometimes show up on the search, but there’s no clicking through and seeing all those services. So, mostly we do it for Google’s sake.
I love that you mentioned all that old SEO stuff as still being present. The way I think about it, Google My Business was built on the foundation of SEO. It’s not that they’re completely disconnected, but nowadays, SEO is a supporting tool to Google My Business. I don’t usually recommend SEO as a standalone campaign anymore just because of the numbers and profit. I tracked 200 campaigns and here’s what I found. I tracked every call, every form fill, every everything. I found that 60% to 80% of all calls a lawyer got over 200 campaigns could be directly attributed to Google My Business. They called straight from Google My Business. They didn’t go to the website at all. They just called from Google My Business without ever going to the website.
Sharon: Does Google My Business give you a separate phone number if you’re paying Google for ads? Do they give you a separate phone number to track this?
Ronnie: They do have some call tracking functionality. It’s not a separate number. What they do is behind the scenes. They have what is called call history in Google My Business. I don’t usually recommend it, and the reason I don’t recommend doing that is because, first of all, it’s bad data. It’ll lead you to believe you’re getting worse data than you are because it can only track the people who click it to call. It can’t track the people who type it in manually. Google My Business is still going to show your actual number, but when you click it, they run it through a different phone number on the back end. So, it’s only tracking 60% to 70% of your calls. It’s not tracking the many, many people who Google on their desktop and then call from their phone, for example.
What I do instead is set up call tracking, where we replace your office number or we import your office number and turn it into a tracked line, depending on if you have a vanity number or really old number you love. Either way, we either completely replace your office number with a new tracked line, or we’ll import your current one and make it into a tracked line, and then we put that on Google My Business. Then we have perfect data because it doesn’t matter how you placed the call. Whether it’s clicked on or manually called, I have that data. I know how that person called and I know where they came from.
Sharon: Is everything you’re describing the same on the phone, desktop, mobile device?
Ronnie: It’s all the same. They would see one phone number all the way through. It doesn’t matter where they come from.
Sharon: What happens if you have a vanity number? Let’s say I’m a client and I say, “Oh, I have to call John. I know his number is 1-800-LAWYER.” How do you separate those?
Ronnie: Yes, if you really care about running a vanity number, I understand. Like I said, we have the option to import that. We can import that number and turn it into a call tracking, which I think is best practice regardless. If you’re going to have a fancy number, at least know how many people are calling you. I think that’s the useful thing to do. So, we import that number and turn that into a call track number. Then that number stays the same. Nothing changes. It’s the same number. When you switch from T-Mobile to Verizon, you get to keep your number. It’s the same thing. We get to keep that number; we just turned it into a tracked one. It’s the same number, but you get all the benefits and now you can track all your calls.
Sharon: When you’re working lawyers, what are the top three mistakes you see, or the top three tips you have? What would you say?
Ronnie: I think as it relates to broad marketing, the biggest thing is not realizing what personally works for you as an individual. What I mean by that is the biggest thing I see lawyers do as a mistake—this is all business owners—is that it’s so tempting to follow the advice of everyone else who says, “This is the best way to succeed,” and they’ll do it regardless of whether or not it’s good for them as an individual. I’ll give you an example of somebody it’s not good for. Say you’ve got a very shy person, a very shy lawyer who doesn’t enjoy meeting in person. It makes them very nervous. It makes them very sickly and unhealthy and anxious. They’re having a bad day. Every time they go to a networking event, they’re miserable. But every lawyer they’ve ever met has told them the only way they’re going to succeed is if they get good at networking, so they grind their way through and force themselves to go to all these networking events. The reason I think that’s a terrible idea is because business is marathon; it’s not a sprint. This is general business advice separate from marketing. Business is a marathon, not a sprint. If you go do things that make you miserable all the way through, you’re not going to be able to sustain. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to want to give up. You’re going to burn out. You’re going to shut down. You’re going to give up. It doesn’t work. So, the biggest mistake I see lawyers make is trying to do things the way everyone else tells them to, regardless of how it feels to them.
Networking for me is super easy. I’m very outgoing, very loud. I speak. I can own a room very easily. Great. What didn’t work for me was trying to force myself to run a lot of Facebook ads. I’m a very direct marketing guy. Cold email is how I do things. Meeting people in person is how I do things. Podcasting and talking, that’s how I do things. But everyone I met was telling me, “Do Facebook ads. Do Facebook ads.” That just freaked me out. If I spent $3,000 in Facebook ads, I was terrified all month, like, “Oh my god, I’m wasting money.” Then I’d be miserable the whole day, all day, every day. I never would have gotten this far if I kept doing what everyone else told me to do.
The same thing is true for most lawyers. Find the marketing path. Find the way to run your business that works for you as an individual, even if everyone else tells you it’s not the best way. Again, success is going to come from surviving over the long run, over the marathon, so you can find what works and find the thing that keeps building up rather than the short-term thing everyone says should work. That’s the biggest mistake with lawyers. Just find the path that works for you. If you don’t like making content, you don’t want to be on TikTok, you don’t want to network, you don’t want to whatever, that’s fine. There’s a way to do it; I promise. You’ve just got to find the way that works for you. That’s my number one tip there.
The second one, as it relates to Google My Business specifically, is that it’s not a set-and-forget profile. I’m going to say it again. It is not a set-and-forget profile. Five years ago, you were right; it kind of was. You would set it. It wasn’t even the thing that showed up first. It was secondary. Now, it’s the thing that shows up first. I’ve tracked 200 campaigns. The majority of your leads comes from Google My Business. Think about this: all roads lead to Google My Business. Here’s why. You run that billboard campaign. They’ll remember your billboard. They might remember your name, and what do they do? They Google your name. What’s the first thing that shows up? If you do a Google search for the business and you have a Google My Business listing, the first thing they see on the entire right side of the screen is a massive thing with everything about you, your reviews, you information. That is Google My Business. It’s literally massive. It takes up the entire right side of a Google search. It’s huge.
So, if you run that billboard campaign, you run that Facebook ad, you do that radio campaign, even if you get a referral, the first thing people do nowadays is they Google you and read your reviews and look at your profile. I’ve seen lawyers lose referral leads because they were Googling them, and they were like, “Hey, you’ve only got one review. I don’t trust you. Your Google My Business profile looks terrible.” All roads lead to Google My Business, so what I tell people is don’t set it and forget it. Put more effort into it than anybody else, whether you pay somebody or do it yourself. This is not stuff you can’t do yourself; it’s just a lot of grunt work. Get in there. Make the posts, add the photos, get reviews. Do the work. All roads lead to Google My Business. Don’t set and forget it. Make use of it. Find everything you can do. You’ll get paid for it in the end. It’s grunt work that pays. That’s what I tell people: it’s grunt work that pays.
Which brings me to my next thing, which is that when it comes to reviews, there’s a big myth. I get so many complaints about reviews. “I can’t get reviews. I’m a criminal lawyer. Somebody who just had a child sex case doesn’t want to leave a review. Somebody who just went through a divorce doesn’t want to talk about the divorce.” First of all, you don’t actually know that. There are a lot of assumptions. I know if you were going through a divorce, you wouldn’t want to leave a review, but you don’t know that about other people. I have met a lot of criminals who are pretty thrilled to brag about the fact that they were a criminal who got off the hook. They’re very thrilled to leave that review. They’re proud of it. You’ve got no idea what people are willing to do. Don’t assume you do. More important, the reality is that reviews are so profitable. Even the referral person is going to look at your reviews. So, you’ve got to get those reviews, and the number myth I see is that most lawyers think they can only get reviews from paying clients, people who have succeeded and paid you. That is not true. The only requirement for a review is that you gave somebody legitimate legal value.
Let’s think about that. What does that mean? I’ll give you an example that blows it out of the water every time. Estate planning lawyers, every quarter they’re going to host a local seminar at the nursing home, for example, and 60 people are there. Maybe they get three, four, five clients out of that session. They’re thrilled. They’ve just made so much money. However, here’s what they do next. After that seminar—they’ve just spent two hours with these people—the ask all 60 attendees to leave a review right then and there. They get 15 to 20 extra reviews in one day for a seminar they were already going to do and they already got five clients out of. At free consultations, you just spent 30 minutes giving legitimate legal value to somebody, even if they don’t become a client. I’ve got clients right now who get three, four, five reviews a month just from people they did a free consultation with. They didn’t even become clients, but at least they got a review out of it for that free consultation. So, there are lots of creative ways that you can get reviews. You’ve just got to think, “Did I provide legal value of some sort?” Friends and family count here. If you gave legitimate legal value, if somebody asked for advice or a thought or suggestion or direction and you gave legal value of some form, that’s cool; ask for that review. You’re safe to do it. It’s worth the payout.
My final thought for people, and I’ll close off here, is that I know you’ve probably had a bad experience with Google ads when you tried running them yourself. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There are a lot of lawyers who are like, “I’ll never do Google ads. It’s never profitable. I tried it once and I lost a lot of money,” especially after Google launched Google Express Ads. I don’t know if you remember those, but Google tried it for a while. Basically, Google wants to get rid of us agencies because we are really good at not getting people to spend as much money. We’re really good at getting our clients to reduce the budget with Google ads. Google wants a direct path to the client where they can work with the lawyer and the lawyer pays Google. They don’t want a middleman. However, the benefit of the middleman is that when you work with an appropriate middleman, you can get it to where we’re constantly telling Google, “I don’t want to pay for this. I don’t want to pay for that. I don’t want to pay for this.” What we’re doing every day and every week is finding out what’s worth paying for and what actually turns into money.
I’ll give you an example. If I work with a criminal lawyer, what I’ve found out—and we’ve helped clients make more money this way—is that if we just pay for DUI searches, we’ll get some cases that way, but a lot of people who are in a DUI, some of them don’t have the money or they aren’t very socially responsible people. They’re not likely to have the money or to pay out. What I found was if we go after nursing DUI or contractor DUI, suddenly the game changed. Now we were going after people who lose the entire livelihoods and licenses. A nurse loses her license for a DUI. Suddenly, those people have more money because they’re nurses, and they’re way more incentivized to make it work because they don’t want to lose their license. I have that context where I can pay money on Google Ads to find the leads that are most likely to make you money and actually convert. When you work with a professional on Google Ads, you can make your campaign a lot more profitable than anything you’ve ever done on your own. So, don’t throw out Google Ads. You’re literally getting to pay to put yourself in front of people who say, “I need a lawyer right now.” If you work with a professional, you can make a lot of money with it. Don’t throw it out. Consider it.
Sharon: You work with Google a lot. It sounds like Google would love to go to a lawyer and say, “Just buy my ads.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a nurse. This is just off the cuff. What’s next for Google and you? Do you feel changes coming? It seems like every time one learns what’s going on, it’s changed. What do you feel is changing or coming?
I bring that up because when it comes to Google and why I love it and expound on it so much, it’s the index fund of marketing. It’s hyper-ingrained in culture. It’s not going to change very much at all in terms of the cultural side. It might evolve, but it’s going to be Google. It’s going to be the idea of searching for a solution. That may evolve in its format. It might be like a VR headset, where an ad shows while you’re searching for something on a VR headset. But fundamentally people are going to search for answers, and you can pay or put grunt effort in to show up in front of people when they search for the answer, whatever format they take. So, in some ways it’s changing; in a lot of ways it’s almost not at all. For me, I’ll probably be on the Google search world, because why would I not put all my effort into putting myself in front of people when they’re already looking for me? That’s where I want to be. It’s easier that way. Fundamentally that’s not changing.
Now, when it comes to actual platforms—which, to me, are on a micro scale compared to the macro we just talked about—there is some micro-stuff changing. The thing that’s going to keep changing is Google’s going to keep trying to find ways to get rid of agencies. I’m going to have to keep fighting. We’re going to fight that as long as we can. There’s going to come a day where eventually Google succeeds with that, but the agencies will probably still have a role because business owners have better things to do than manage their budgets or campaigns. There may be a human component forever, but there will probably be a point where Google succeeds enough where their ads actually perform at reaching their goals for the client. That is probably still many, many years off, because right now the reason Google Ads can’t do that is because they don’t know your business.
For example, right now with local service ads, which is probably the most they’ve ever succeeded at making it where they can go directly to the lawyer, they will run a campaign for an immigration lawyer, but they don’t know that business. So, if that immigration lawyer says, “Hey, I don’t do deportations and I don’t do asylums,” Google has no filtering for that. You can’t turn that off, so you get all immigration leads. Right now at least, there’s no customization to that individual business. That’s the kind of filtering I can do as the human saying, “Hey, I only want these types of cases. I don’t want any of these cases.” I can put that kind of thinking into it. Google may one day fix it up, but they haven’t done it yet.
What they’re trying now is an improved version of all this called Performance Max. It recently came out. Basically, it’s the same idea as Google Express Ads, but with the lessons from local service ads. It’s like version 3, but now it goes on all of their Ads platforms. They’re trying merge into one giant ad platform where you pay one budget to advertise on Google ads, display ads, YouTube ads, Gmail ads, on all their platforms all at once. Of course, in theory that sounds great, but if you just give it to the bots, it’s going to spend money. It has no context of who you want to target, what types of cases turn into money. Performance Max might have a role to play. I don’t expect it’s going to take over the agency role anytime soon. I probably need to keep fighting them for a long time to make sure we’re only spending money when it makes money. But what we’re going to keep is a trend where Google tries to find some new way where we don’t need an agency. They’re going to underestimate and still not understand what the individual business actually needs, so we’re going to keep going back and forth until one day they figure it out. I don’t know how long that’s going to be, but it’s probably at least five, 10 years.
Sharon: You’ve given us a lot to think about. It’s not your father’s Google, I should say.
Ronnie: Yeah, it’s changed a lot.
Sharon: I want to thank you so much. It’s been very, very interesting. We greatly appreciate you being here.
Ronnie: Absolutely. I had a great time. Thanks for having me.
“We’ve retained and hired numerous PR firms in the past and based on the experience we’ve had with Berbay, we think they are at the top of the list and the best PR firm we’ve worked with in our careers.” - Steve Huntley© 2023 Berbay Marketing & PR, All Rights Reserved