lawyer and marketer sitting at table

The following is a transcript of Episode 3 of Championing Justice. You can listen to the full episode here, or watch it on YouTube.

Darl: Welcome to the Championing Justice podcast. I’m Darl Champion. Today I’m joined by Jim Christy. Jim is the president of Postali, and we’re going to be talking about internet marketing for lawyers, but also we’ll be talking about some other topics related to marketing. Jim, thanks for joining us.

Jim: Yeah, you bet. Great to be here.

Darl: Did I get your title right? President of Postali?  

Jim: That’s correct, yeah.

Darl: Awesome. Tell us what Postali is and the work that y’all do.

Jim: Yeah, so we are a marketing agency for attorneys. We work with a lot of personal injury attorneys, but we also work with firms of really all sizes. We have a few corporate firms, we work with some solos, so it really ranges. And we do services that are really custom to what that firm needs. 

So a lot of people do engage with us for SEO design work or kind of the more common things but then we will do some strategy. We’ll dabble a little bit in SEO, but I would say the digital websites and ads are really kind of our bread and butter.

Darl: Sure, so and the way that we met was we started using Postali for website redesign and ongoing SEO back in 2020. We used to be in Atlanta in the Vinings area; we were making a move to Marietta, we had just bought a building and we were looking at just kind of having a fresh start. 

So I was familiar with the work Postali had done, had done a lot of research, and we reached out to y’all. So we’ve primarily been using Postali for that website redesign, for also launching our Georgia tort law website, which is where we put a lot of our attorney-focused content. We have things like case summaries, blog articles about substantive law, and videos about new cases that come out. But also Postali’s been doing our ongoing SEO. They’ve also done some PPC for us. 

Now the name Postali, we were talking about that before we got started. Tell us where that name came from. 

Jim: Yeah, so when we first started 13, 14 years ago, all we did was direct mail for attorneys. We looked at court records, filings, things like that, and we sent out targeted direct mail to people, speeding tickets, debt filings, things like that. And we did just that for a few years. 

I mean, even before we were a legitimate fully formed business, we did that just contract work for a few attorneys, then we formed it. We had 25 to 30 attorneys that we’d mail out for, and a few of them said, “Hey, I’m getting quotes from Scorpion.” At the time Scorpion was probably the biggest player in lawyer digital marketing. So, we said, “I think we can understand what’s going on here and do some of that.” So that was kind of our transition into more of the digital space. And now that mail company is completely spun off into something different. Like we still know the guys that work there, but we don’t do any direct mail. 

So the name meant—it was Italian for “postal.” And now we don’t do anything that’s related to the mail at all. So now it’s just a nonsense word like Google.

Darl: That has a great story.

Jim: Yeah, yeah.

Darl: Okay, so tell us a little bit about all the different services that y ‘all do under that Postali umbrella. You know, we’ve talked about organic SEO, and we’ll talk about that in more detail in terms of what that is, because I think there’s a kind of a misunderstanding among a lot of lawyers on what that really means, but kind of give us the full menu of services that y’all provide. 

Jim: Yeah. I’ll kind of start with like, we’ll go through a chronology of what ideally we would do for every firm, because firms come to us at different stages of life. right? 

So, at the beginning, what we’d really like to do with every firm is go through a branding exercise; we do branding for firms. What this often looks like for us is rebranding. We don’t usually work with firms that just start out in law school and then they have to discover this vision. But that is something that I think we’re really good at. 

From there then, from your brand, you can really start to understand visual assets and design. So, we do logo creation, visual asset creation, website design. I personally like to break up website design from website strategy and building because those are really two different things. Like, a really exceptional designer can re-skin a website and it can look so much different but everything under the hood is exactly the same. And it may not perform better other than just aesthetically or from a perception standpoint, but we do a lot of really deep website architecture strategy content development. So that’s where kind of the under-the-hood website stuff comes in. 

And then once the site is live, we want to get people to it. So we do SEO, local service ads, paid social ads, Google ads, basically any type of advertising. And then we also do a lot of like a la carte design and strategy work as well.

Darl: Well, so this would be a great time for us to talk about the differences between SEO and paid search. 

So, under the paid search umbrella, we’ve got different categories like PPC and LSAs, which are relatively new in the digital marketing landscape. So just tell us, what is SEO and what does that mean?

Jim: Yeah, so SEO stands for search engine optimization. And the work that an SEO does, it’s interesting: a person can be an SEO and you can do SEO. It’s kind of how it goes. But it’s the work needed to get your site to rank higher in Google search. I say Google, but just search engines. Broader visibility.

Darl: Sure. And Google is the predominant search engine, right?

Jim: It is.

Darl: What are the statistics on how many… like 90%?

Jim: It’s 80 – 85%. And then because you’ve got your DuckDuckGo, your Yahoo, your Bing…

Darl: People still use Yahoo?

Jim: You’d be surprised. People still have AOL email addresses. I’m always confused.

Darl: I’ll occasionally get a client with an AOL email address and it instantly takes me back to college with like the dial-up internet.

Jim: Yeah, you’re just like, “Let me send you an AOL instant messenger.”

Darl: But I think that, you know, when we talk about SEO, that’s what I hear is like, “How can I show up more in Google?” Because that is the predominant search engine. And SEO has changed a lot over the years, right? I mean, I think when lawyers started doing it, what was it, late 90s, early 2000s? That kind of timeframe? It was all about keyword stuffing. So it was just, “Hey, let’s put a bunch of these keywords on there and we’ll rank.” And that’s evolved a lot. Tell us a little bit about the evolution you’ve seen just in terms of what you’ve seen at Postali.

Jim: Yeah, I mean, you’re totally right that it was just keyword stuffing for a long time. I mean, if you look back at the earliest law firm websites, it’s just walls of text and it’s all the keywords and it really didn’t even have to make sense from a linguistic perspective. It can just be keywords and it would show up because people didn’t really know how to query. Everyone was learning how to use this thing, right? 

So if you fast forward from then until, let’s just say, when SEO really started to hit heavy, which is probably 10 years ago or so, where almost every firm that wanted to generate leads online was like, “I need to invest in SEO.” There was still a lot of that remnant where people would just say, “I’m just going to write a bunch of content, and I’m going to either build spammy backlinks or build credible backlinks, just links into the site.” Because it was a just race for organic results.

And I think the reason that SEO has changed so much is—and when I say organic results, I mean, for a long time you didn’t even have maps on a search result page. You just had a string of natural organic listings. And then around that eight to 10 year mark, the maps start to really become prominent and they have different ranking factors, different things bring visibility to them, and users really engage with them. 

So now when we look at a search result page, you have a whole lot of different things to click on. So optimizing a website, it looks very different. Because you’re optimizing for maps, you may have to have a paid strategy, even though part of your overall search strategy could be, “If 60% of the real estate on a search result pages is an ad, should we be investing in ads?” It’s just the thing you have to ask.

Darl: Sure, so and let’s mention that, because a lot of people—I use the term organic a lot. I feel like I have a decent understanding of what it means, but a lot of people I talk to in conversation, there’s kind of a lot of confusion with that. 

So let’s talk about it from the standpoint of what a searcher sees when they search for a personal injury lawyer. And it could be just searching, you know, “What do I do after a car accident?” or actually searching, you know, for a branded keyword, or it could be just searching for a substantive keyword like “personal injury lawyer.” 

So I search… What comes up? We’ve got LSAs, right? 

Jim: Well and I’ll even break this down further because, if you search something like “personal injury lawyer,” that’s a very broad categorical search and you’re gonna get a search page layout that looks one way. 

If you search for something that’s a little bit more of what we would call long tail, like “What do I do after a car accident?” You’re going to get a different search result page. That’s an evolution of Google, right?

Darl: Google’s getting smarter.

Jim: They’re getting smarter with intent. 

Darl: Or they want to be the best search engine. You’ve got to give information that’s helpful to the searcher. So the old days of just putting a bunch of keywords doesn’t work, you’ve got to now optimize for all these different areas. So what the searcher sees based on, whether it’s a long-tail keyword—and long-tail keywords as I understand it is—that’s not searching “Atlanta personal injury attorney” or “Marrietta personal injury attorney.” It’s “Who pays my medical bills after a car accident?”

Jim: Yeah, the true definition of it is supposed to be if you look at a curve, anything that’s not in the 80% of common search terms becomes a long tail. It’s in the long tail of the curve. It’s almost always unique, or Google doesn’t see it very often. 

But to get back to your question of what does a person see? They see right now, typically LSAs, so local service ads, two or three of them at the top of the page, and these are categorical. People who want to show up there basically say, “I’m a personal injury lawyer,” and then you’ll have eight to 10 different boxes you can check of subcategories, and Google’s kind of taking a bunch of different terms and saying, “Well, they all map to these areas.” So those are front and center. Those have actually been—they’re great in a lot of ways and they’re terrible in a lot of ways. We’ll come back to that.

Darl: I know why they’re terrible because I experienced it.

Jim: Yes. So there’s local services, then there’s pay-per-click. So, what most people think about is Google ads,—pay-per-click—and one or two of those. 

Then you typically get the maps. So you get a map with—we’ve seen a lot more sponsored listings in thee, so we actually see four or more currently, more recently.

Darl: So sponsored, so now you’ve got LSAs with local service ads, that’s paid search. And that’s not pay-per-click, that’s pay-per-lead, right?

Jim: Correct.

Darl: So you only have to pay for a lead that contacts you.

Jim: Yep.

Darl: Then you come down, you’ve got pay-per-click.

Jim: Yep.

Darl: Then you’ve got your map listing, and you’ve got three results that show up based on a variety of factors, but then you have one sponsored ad, and that’s a paid ad?

Jim: It’s a paid ad, and that’s actually evolved too. For a long time, that was done through a local ad extension of pay-per-click. Now that’s actually a function of LSAs. So the LSAs are actually pulling in. So when you click on that, you see the LSA criteria.

Darl: So to show up in that sponsorship, you’ve got to be playing the LSA game.

Jim: Right.

Darl: Okay. And so then below the maps, that’s where you have the organic listings.

Jim: Yeah, that’s what we would call true organic results. And even those are a mixed bag now.

Darl: And you’re gonna have directory listings, you’re gonna have these other things. SEO is the map listings and the organic results, is that fair to say? 

Jim: Yeah, that’s a fair assessment. 

Darl: A lot of lawyers hear about local search, so when they’re looking for an agency, they’ll talk about local search. Is that just the maps, or is it both maps and organic? Because organic has a local component, too. It’s serving results based on the proximity of the searcher to the firm, right? 

Jim: Yeah, the semantics of all of this is—you could probably ask 10 people and get eight different answers. 

But by and large, when people say local search, they’re thinking just the maps, what Google now calls the Local Finder. Because even maps alone is a different term. Maps is an app, Maps is a website that Google has, like we call it “maps,” but Google has moved to kind of call it the Local Finder. 

Darl: So, lawyers get solicited by a lot of vendors for SEO and we’ll talk about paid search in a minute because that’s that’s very different SEO, and I’ll just talk a little bit about my background:

I think—for anybody who listened to the first episode, I talked a little bit about this—I bounced around to a lot of different agencies, in large part because I was, you know, in survival mode and you’re trying to find somebody that can get you those results. That’s not a good game to play with SEO. 

I tell people, if you think of search, think of SEO as like farming and PPC as like hunting. If you don’t give the stuff time to grow, it’s not going to grow. And so I bounced around several different agencies. Ultimately, we’ve been with Postali now for almost three years, which, you know, I think in talking to a lot of colleagues, the most they stay with anybodys is like 12 months. What are some of the problems that can exist if a lawyer is bouncing around from different agencies? 

Because again, there’s so much out there. Like, I went to Lanier Trial Academy recently and there was like 10 SEO vendors there sponsoring it and they had tables set up and, you know, we see these things and we see other people that we think might be having results and we switch. What are the problems that that can create? 

Jim: I would say there are a lot. 

Darl: You can use ours, for example, because that presented some challenges to you. 

Jim: Yeah, it did. And I think that’s really where the biggest thing is: You’re picking up something that has already been worked on, and it has equity—good or bad—in some way. And not just equity, it also has structure, and it has been indexed by Google over a period of time. 

So, for a long time, our stance—and we actually changed this about five years ago—but for a long time, our stance was we will not inherit anything.

Darl: Interesting.

Jim: We have to build everything on a clean slate.

Darl: I’m glad you changed that.

Jim: Yeah. And in some ways it’s good, and in some ways it’s bad. Our actual decision to do that had a lot to do with what we would call a algorithmic penalty that we thought a lot of websites were having. 

So for example, if you worked with an agency that was known to kind of do some sketchy backlinking strategies or structural things that don’t really align with what Google wants, there would just be this huge fall from grace that they would have. And they would never recover regardless of what work was done. And we just chalked that up to, “Well the algorithm is penalizing it because there’s something baked in,” so we didn’t want that history. 

We wouldn’t even redirect the domain. We would let the domain sit with like a parking page basically and say, “The new website is over here,” but we wouldn’t allow that link to follow or have any equity pass through. We tried to disconnect those things as much as possible.

Around that time though, the reason we changed that strategy is that Google said that they were going to be much more in lenient with disavowing links or breaking those historical link relationships. Is that 100% true? We don’t see it 100%. 

I think that there’s still a really strong case, but you’ve gone through this enough to know that if somebody says nothing you have is valuable, you have to—all of that’s sunk cost and we have to completely start over. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Darl: It’s very hard.

Jim: You know, and we fought that and we lost a lot of deals because of it. But on the flip side, you know, let’s fast forward to now we will inherit a site and we’ll restructure it. And you know, we’ve talked about the analogy of if something is already built and you don’t know what’s behind the walls of a house, for example, and you start adding things on or you start trying to make modifications, you can try to see all of it, but you don’t know how Google has understood that site before entirely. 

You don’t know what negative things have been done historically, maybe not even by the previous vendor, but by two or three vendors ago. Because the archeology of that is really hard to do and it’s really time-consuming. So that is the biggest thing. 

An agency inherits all of the flaws and opportunity of a site. And sometimes it’s really hard to know how much to cut out versus how much to go forward with. And it’s an art as much as it is a science. And that’s what I think when firms go from agency to agency, year over year—unless they’re rebuilding. And even then if they’re rebuilding then they probably even need more runway because they need more time and equity to be built in. 

So I’ll say all this knowing that it’s hard to find a good SEO agency, one, that you feel like has your best interest in mind. And I understand why people jump, but it puts the the next person in line in a disadvantaged situation. 

Darl: So I’m a personal injury lawyer and a lot of people that listen to this podcast are also personal injury lawyers. Would you say that personal injury is the most competitive practice area in the legal landscape? 

Jim: Oh, by far. By far. 

Darl: And can you think of any other area just in SEO in general, I mean, even outside of legal that is close to being as competitive as personal injury SEO is? 

Jim: Not really. We use price per click in ads as kind of a barometer for how competitive something is, because in an economic model, if it’s really expensive in ads, you’d move back and forth between SEO and ads, and if ads were cheap enough, people would really push there. 

So the price of a click is pretty much going to show you how competitive something is for SEO and, you know, we see markets where people are paying—this is a whole other thing we can talk about with ads as far as like bid rates and inexperienced people doing ads and then driving bid rates up for everybody else—but like, people are willing to pay $700, $800, $900 a click. 

That is just a click. And we don’t see that in any other legal vertical. And I’ve worked in other verticals that are not even close. It’s just the value of the cases can be so high and firms that are well-capitalized…

Darl: And it’s the fact that they’re taking the cases on the contingency fee, right? 

Jim: Yeah. 

Darl: So, you know, I do think there’s, in terms of what I’ve seen in the Atlanta area—so our office is in Marietta—but from what I’ve seen across the country, Atlanta is a pretty competitive market. I mean would you rank it as like a top five? 

Jim: Oh, for sure. 

Darl: So you’ve had your work cut out for you with us. For anybody listening to this you cannot use Postali in Atlanta because we have exclusivity. I hope we do. 

Jim: Yeah, that’s true.

Darl: Yeah, if not, we need to talk after. But you know, I think that one of the mistakes that I I see a lot of lawyers make is you know the one we talked about: They don’t stay with an SEO agency long enough. 

Do you have any kind of recommendation for how long lawyers should give it to work? Because I know a lot of people say “a year.” I actually think it’s longer than that to really get the full picture.

I mean, I think in my first podcast, I talked about two years to kind of know and have a good idea. What do you tell lawyers?

Jim: It’s a function of market competitiveness. So like, I think you’re right in thinking about it. This market, you definitely need more than a year, especially, like, you guys had an office relocation, you had a lot of moving parts on top of just what needed to be done structurally to the site. But yeah, if you’re an injury lawyer in LA or New York or Chicago or something like that, I would say two years is probably the minimum. 

Now, that’s not without some type of leading indicators. You know, I don’t wanna just say like, blindly commit for two years and I I don’t even think it’s—we often ask for annual agreements— but I don’t think it’s really fair to ask for much beyond that, because you will start to see performance changes even if you’re not feeling it in your business yet. But small markets—I mean we work with a family lawyer in a suburban or a small metro—they should really see results in four to six months.

Darl: Right. A probait attorney in Valdosta, Georgia, for example. I mean, small town, not as competitive practice area. Or even, I mean, a personal injury lawyer in one of those small cities, I think, Columbus, GA, Macon, GA, Augusta. 

Those places, I do think there’s an opportunity there, but one of the things that I tell lawyers—cause a lot of lawyers that will go out and start a firm will ask me for advice on things—and what I tell them is “Don’t even try to play in that SEO game.”

Jim: Yeah.

Darl: “At least not now because you’re just throwing your money away.” Like there’s so many other things you could put your money in, in terms of the amount of money that it costs and this is the big question I hear from a lot of lawyers: they’re always like, “Well how much money should I spend?” 

And the way they typically set their budget is by asking other lawyers what they spend. So, “What do you spend over here?”, “What do you spend?” 

First let me ask you this, how do you come up with a budget? I mean, I imagine you’re looking at, you know, the history of the website, the market, and those kinds of things. But tell me what goes into that and then what you generally recommend to lawyers.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah, this is a great question. And it can be challenging, the nuances of it. But the one thing that I would say is you do have to look at all of your primary competitor sites. If you’re trying to perform in SEO, you basically have to say, “We need to be better than one of these top 10 guys.” 

So we have to think about what that roadmap looks like, of how do we get the site content, the user experience, all the technical pieces, plus the links to catch one of these top 10 guys? Because otherwise you’re not displacing anybody. That’s one of the terrible things about SEO. It is a displacement game. They’re not adding more. 

Darl: It’s a zero-sum game. I will say, you know, in terms of proximity to the searcher that’s helped some right? 

Jim: Yeah. 

Darl: But this is the thing that I tell people though, when they’re talking about the budget, is you know you’re not gonna compete with some of these players. Now for us, you know we’re in Marietta, which is just outside of Atlanta and part of the reason why we’re looking at a building to buy was we got a great deal in the building. But it was, “Hey, maybe this is an opportunity for us to kind of move out of Atlanta a little bit to be in, you know, a little bit of a less competitive area.” Still competitive here, though. 

Jim: It is. 

Darl: And we still, I think y’all are seeing that, running into that.

Jim: And we’re seeing more and more, you know, this is a sprawling area, but we see more and more downtown metro firms move into this area, suburbs, and then they create kind of these like, almost as competitive spaces as the downtown because they’re getting satellite offices there and things like that. 

You know, and I think more to your point around the price, is that the thing that, it’s always tricky to answer this, is like: We’re an agency that we have in-house employees and we do very little through any type of AI or things like that. 

So I have to think about when we price something out, how many hours of work do we need to produce something? And that’s very different I think than a lot of agencies think about things. I think they think about, “Well,” and we’ll do this too, we’ll benchmark like, “Okay, what worked over there? How many resources do we need?” But I think there’s just a value extraction game that a lot of SEO companies try to say of like, “What do we think we can get? We’re just gonna get as much as we can.” Whereas we actually kind of take a back-in analysis of like, “I think we’re gonna need 110 hours a month,” for example, “between content and design.” We’ll allocate those things out. 

So I would encourage people to kind of ask the vendors that they’re considering, like what is their pricing model based around? Like can they explain it? Can they articulate it? Because it is time that has to go into content like building user experience, technical fixes, and then strategy. Those are the things that make up SEO, and how are you going to allocate those things through? 

And I think some firms just go, “Small agencies can do that with one or two people.” When we were really small, we did this with one or two people. But as you grow, you have more specialists. You have more people that need resources and time. So hopefully that answers your question.

Darl: No, it does. And I mean, I think what I’ve seen, you know, from different agencies that we’ve talked to over the years is they just throw out a number. “Hey, we’re gonna need $20,000 or $25,000.” And I think actually when we approached y’all, we suggested, “Hey, we wanna spend a bunch of money.” And you were like, “Well, I actually don’t think you need to spend a whole bunch of money right now.” And so, you kind of talked us back and were like, “Hey, let’s spend a little bit less.” And we certainly appreciated that honesty. You don’t always get that with a lot of agencies. 

Jim: Yes, yes.

Darl: But in terms of budget, and I know you mentioned there’s a lot of factors that go into it, but let’s just talk kind of rough numbers and what you see clients needing to pay to be competitive. So let’s start with major metro Atlanta, Chicago, LA… just really big city, super competitive. 

In personal injury, what are you seeing lawyers need to spend to get an ROI? 

Jim: This is a wide range. It depends a lot on number of office locations and what’s being done in-house, too. I think those are two things that can really sway this. But I would say minimum of $10,000, kind of hands down in a really big metro. 

And I think that is probably only in very rare situations where everything’s been highly controlled and you maybe already have some good momentum, it’s on a ground up kind of build because you’ll just never get there with that amount of budget from the start. 

I would say high-end you’re probably looking at $45,000 to $60,000…

Darl: And just for people listening, it’s $45,000 to $60,000 a month, right, on the high-end. Low end: $10,000 a month. But if you can stomach it, the rewards are great. 

Jim: Yes, if you’re one of the few that are in there and I think that this is something that, you know, I think you and I have kind of touched on this in the past, but I I do like to bring this up, is that at that higher end range—it starts to be kind of head scratching of like,”Why do I want to pay somebody outside versus doing this in-house?” 

You know, it starts to get into that question of like, you know, you guys have some dedicated people and and they’re awesome.

Darl: They’re great. Happy birthday, Kayla. 

Jim: None of them are staring at us right now. 

But I do think that when you start to approach really even like that maybe $30,000 range, starting to think about bringing some of that in-house. I think the problem with doing it in-house too soon is that you don’t have the diversity of skill set that we do.

Darl: Sure.

Jim: We essentially have to have like five different departments, but yeah, when we start to say, “Oh, $50,000 a month in SEO,” it’s like well, that’s…

Darl: $600,000. Yeah. I mean you think of the marketing team you could build out for $600,000. 

Jim: Yeah.

Darl: I think the thing for me, and I’ve I’ve always thought this about my business, I mean we’ve grown a lot. We have seven—soon to be seven—attorneys. I think that’s right, including myself. I can never keep it straight. I have to go through the offices in my head. 

But I think, regardless of what happens in the future for us, we’re always going to need an outside agency because I think there’s a level of expertise because of the specialization that an agency can have people focused on those areas. And then you just have so many changes. I mean, Google’s changing constantly. 

That was the next thing I wanted to ask you about. One of the reservations that I’ve had at times is: what if we spend all this money and then *snaps* Google just changes the algorithm? Boom. Which, the algorithm changes constantly, by the way. But what if you just have some dramatic change and then everything that you’ve spent…

Because if you tell somebody, “Hey, you can spend $360,000 a year, $30,000 a month.” And if you do the math and you’re thinking, “Hey, we’ll get an ROI and this is what it’ll be,” but things could suddenly change. Rug is pulled out from under us. What do you tell people who have that concern?

Jim: It’s a very real concern, and we’ve seen it happen. I mean, that’s a lot of sites that we inherit, that happened. People were making 15 to 20 times their investment and then everything just went to zero.

I think the first thing that I say is that nobody should invest in—

Darl: It went to zero before you inherited them.

Jim: Correct, good clarification.

Darl: Yes, we gotta be clear on the language here. Jim did not make them go to zero.

Jim: Yes, yes, we picked it up at zero after it had fallen in place.

Darl: They came to you because it went to zero.

Jim: Yeah.

I think the first thing that I would ask is, if you’re spending that amount of money in SEO,

 where else are you diversified? Like, I would think about this as like any other type of financial decision. Like, don’t put all of your investments in the S&P.  Diversify it. So make sure you have that before you start to scale anything up. 

If you see that SEO is actually you’re driving, like, your largest ROI, and you have all your other pieces in place, then go nuts. Continue to invest until that ROI diminishes, or whatever marketing channel that is that does that for you. Just don’t have that be your only thing.

Darl: Yeah, I think for us, and I can talk a little bit about my experiences, I’ve always told my in-house marketing people that I’d love to have a three-way split on cases: a third from SEO/internet marketing, a third from client referrals, and a third from attorney referrals. 

And there’s definitely been times where our focus and our allocation of resources has been a little tilted in one direction or the other, and you can kind of see that in the leads. I think during COVID, for example, our attorney leads fell off. There’s a variety of reasons behind that, but you’re also not getting out as much. You’re not interacting with people and having that face time to build relationships. 

But I always recommend that people absolutely diversify. And I do think of it as like an investment strategy. You want to own real estate and stocks and bonds and other things so that you’re not totally tied to one source. But one of the recommendations that I always have for lawyers, too, is to take ownership of their marketing.

I see so many law firms that, you know, just because of the way they’re structured, maybe they’re very top heavy with lawyers or staff, they don’t have the administrative people, they don’t have either a marketing person or a marketing team, and they just throw money at some outside agency. Which, one, is not diversifying at all but, two, you’re not really getting adequate collaboration and in terms of what needs to be done to work on the branding side of things and to diversify. 

And so that’s one of the things that we’ve really tried to focus on over the last year or so is to build our in-house marketing team. We now have a marketing director. We have somebody in charge of digital marketing and we have a video content creator. And that’s been huge for us because, when we’ve worked with outside people, for example, on social media, you don’t get the same kind of character in the posts. It seems very cookie cutter. You don’t have that branding. With the videos, you’ve got to use an outsourced person. It depends on when they’re available. They cost a lot of money. 

What do you tell other lawyers or law firms that are thinking about hiring somebody in-house to work on their market? 

Jim: I want to say one thing about the last thing you said, and then we’ll jump into that, which is I think SEO in part gets a bad rap because it is exactly what you said. Firms want to be able to throw something over to an outside vendor and know that they can forget about it, and they think of SEO as that thing. And I think that’s a trap, because it is a hands-on piece. 

Darl: So you’re talking about, you can’t just throw money at an SEO agency, which I see people all the time do. Lawyers are the kings of that. 

I think personal injury lawyers, in particular, we see somebody else doing something and “Well, if they’re doing it, I need to do it.” And you can almost sell anything to a personal injury lawyer. If somebody else is doing it, they want to do it. 

I think the mistake that I’ve seen—and it sounds like you’ve seen it too—is lawyers say, “Let me just write a big check to my SEO agency and set it and forget it.” You can’t really do that. So, what do you recommend about the time on when a lawyer or law firm should hire somebody in-house to work on their marketing?

Jim: Yeah. 

Darl: Not only the in-house marketing, but to be kind of that point person for the SEO agency.

Jim: Yeah, this is probably a year or two before you think you need it.

Darl: Sure.

Jim: You know, we were talking a little bit just about like business structure, and we at Postali, we use the EOS model. 

Darl: Yeah. And for people that don’t know, that’s entrepreneurs operating system. 

Jim: Yeah, it’s widely used and everyone that uses it kind of uses a variation of it. But I think the reason I bring it up is that it it tends to break things down into business functions that are really simplified. And when you think about them you start to go, “Oh I wonder why I’m doing things that way.” 

So in this case, when you think about a law firm: sales and marketing—sales being intake, marketing being all the other pieces of of bringing in business—operations, doing the legal work, and then finance. So most firms spend almost all of their resources in the middle funnel operations for a really long time. Typically because the lead attorney is either really good at bringing in business—and the finance piece, maybe they’re good at that too, or they’ve just outsourced that to an accountant—but they have this ghost town over on the sales and marketing side. 

They’re reluctant to hire an intake person. They’re reluctant to hire an in-house marketer. And I think the reason is that they’re so used to the operations of a firm, they understand the nuances of why they need all those people. They’ve done that work. So they know, “Oh, I can’t give that to this person because that’s not their exact skill set, or there’s more nuance around that.” But they don’t often see that in marketing where they just say, “Oh, I have a marketer, they can do everything.” 

And in the meantime, that marketer is going, “I need six people, I’m not an ads expert. I’m a strategist, I’m not an ads expert, I’m not an SEO expert, I’m not all these things,” but that’s your captain of that side. So from a timing perspective, there’s probably some magic formula, but I think if you’re getting into the range of like three attorneys, depending on revenue, you probably need to be thinking about somebody who’s really owning the in-house marketing and either managing vendors or doing some execution depending on what that really looks like. 

Darl: I actually I have an interesting take on that, because I kind of fell into that that trap too of focusing so much on the legal work and focusing on attorneys and paralegals, and I think it has to do with measurement. 

And it’s easy to measure okay, I have an attorney working on this case and a paralegal, this is what I’m paying them, you know, and this is what their case produced. Because we are as personal injury lawyers, contingency fee lawyers, we can’t bill people out. And so we’re very much focused on what is that that’s coming in versus what does it cost to work on it. And that’s an easy thing to measure. 

And I think lawyers get in that trap of focusing on, “Okay, well, this team of attorney and paralegal, let’s say I paid them, you know, together, you know, $350,000 this year, they brought in a million dollars.” That’s the profit, right? You can’t measure that directly with a marketing person. You can’t measure that directly with an intake specialist. You can’t measure it directly with an office manager. But you know that there is a cost to it. 

And what I advise people to do is think not in terms of what can you measure in the data. Think in terms of, one, what does it cost an hour of your time as the business owner to work on it? What is an hour of your time worth? And whatever you set it at, look at it and say, “Okay, if I’m worth X amount an hour, if I can pay somebody $25 an hour to do it, I can then spend my time and energy on these higher value tasks.” 

The other thing that I encourage people to look at is, you know, try to think about what you could be losing or gaining by having or not having that person. So we went through this recently with whether to hire an intake person. It’s not a 40-hour-a-week job for our firm. I mean, we don’t have so many leads that we need somebody 40 hours a week just processing it. But if you look at “What’s the cost to the firm?” it comes in two ways:

One, lower conversion rate, because you don’t have that person right there ready to jump on the lead and process it. And then number two is there’s a carryover effect into disrupting the workflow of the attorneys and paralegals. So you’re losing money up from that standpoint too. And when I just looked at it and said, “Hey, I can pay an intake person X amount a year,” and I forget what it was, maybe $40,000 a year or $45,000 a year, it’s like, “Wow.” 

If you look at, “Okay. What’s my conversion rate gonna improve to?”, “What’s the just kind of peace of mind of the attorneys not having to jump on those things?”… It’s invaluable. I think from a marketing standpoint, this is where I hear lawyers all the time ask me about things, and this is where we’ll get into paid ads. 

Paid ads is probably the easiest thing to measure because it’s, “Hey, we paid for this ad, we got this case, and you can measure it month to month.” You can’t measure social media, per se. I mean you can maybe measure social media ads but what did you have to spend on branding and social media to get to that point?

With LSA—and let’s talk about LSA and PPC, and then I want to talk some more about other sources like you know social media. LinkedIn in particular, because I think my experience with LinkedIn is a good example of the mistake I hear lawyers make and thinking you need a direct ROI to make something worth it. So LSA has been around what? Four years, three years, four years, somewhere around there?

Jim: Yeah, I think it’s longer than that, but not for attorneys. I think they rolled out in October.

Darl: So for people that don’t know, it’s super volatile. There are people who were getting tons of cases when it first launched, and then they just fell off the face of the earth. And nobody—when I hear people talking about this on podcasts and webinars—like nobody really knows why. Tell us a little bit about LSAs and what your experience with them is. 

Jim: Yeah, same as yours. Especially for all of our attorneys who are in direct to consumer, personal injury, criminal defense, family law, we’ll essentially take all the LSA leads that we can get for all of those. Because we look at what the comparative is with PPC, and the ROI is great. And it’s great for all of those areas. 

As long as the firms have a good intake process, it is probably the best way to spend money right now. So that’s the nice thing.

Darl: LSA, PPC or both?

Jim: LSA. PPC is a whole other animal, but I’m happy to dive down that as well. But LSAs. Because when you think about a cost for a call of even $200, when you’re going to spend $200 on a click, you’re going to take the LSAs every day. And it’s front and center. 

The real thing to talk about here is, why are some firms really visible and other firms not? Because in a PPC scenario, it’s auction-based. You can pay your way to the top. There’s a little bit of a quality score element there, but it’s mostly just like, if you’re willing to pay, you’re going to show up. 

In LSA ads, you can put your budget of a million dollars a month and they may not show your ad at all. And Google has been very opaque with this, where they’re basically saying “It’s proximity, it’s reviews, there are a number of ranking factors.” 

And we’ve experimented with a lot of things, and some things work, and we can kind of draw straight lines and say, “Okay, we changed that, and that was effective.” But in a market like Atlanta or New York City, sometimes nothing works. We’re in this scenario with you right now, where we’ve had to do a lot of different changes, and we’re actually running some experiments on, are there things that are actually ranking factors here that Google has not disclosed? And I think that’s kind of where we’re at. 

There’s always the kind of cynic in me that will say we’ve had issues like historically, well I shouldn’t say—you guys have had issues historically through Google Business Profile, for whatever reason…

Darl: And I’ll just mention briefly what happened with our Google Business Profile. And nobody really knows why. 

One time, I think it was late 2019, it just disappeared. And we recognized it and let Google know, “Hey, where’d our page go?”

Jim: Yeah. 

Darl: They were like, “Oh, sorry about that, we’ll put it back.” All of a sudden it showed back up, the reviews populated. And we weren’t doing anything improper. 

When I say “we,” we were almost using exclusively an agency at that time. I don’t even think I had a marketing director at that time, or if I did, she’d only been with me for a very short period of time. But nobody really knew why our page disappeared, and Google wouldn’t tell us. And we’ve had, you know, we had y’all look at it, we had our agency at the time look at it, we had a third party look at it, and they were like, “I don’t know.” 

Like, what happened? And so there’s been some wonky things that have gone on with our site since then. But anyway, that’s what I wanted to clarify then.

Jim: Yeah.

Darl: We weren’t running totally black hat SEO on our website.

Jim: No, and I just want to bring that up because there is an association between a business profile and local service ads, I mean on the back, and that’s how they associate. That’s how Google connects them together They take the business profile and the criteria there and they associate it to the ads account and you can see it through your actual ads manager. But so there is this relationship that exists. 

But to the broader point, you can’t force visibility with LSAs right now in the Atlanta metro. There are probably 80 firms that wanna be in those top two. And Google is somehow shuffling them through based on the factors that they’re saying and the factors that they’re not saying. 

And, then, is there also some other like penalization thing happening? And I think that’s the piece that, it’s rare, but we have seen in a few markets. Another client, I won’t disclose who we have, we have another client that had a very similar kind of a questionable path with their Google Business Profile and when we took it over, we changed the business name to be more accurate with what the actual business filing was, and it got suspended immediately, which is a very rare thing. 

We’ve had to start and stop their LSAs, basically like continue to restart them, and we had to do it about six times before it actually took. And I don’t know what that, honestly, I don’t know what that does in the back end. 

Darl: Well, I’ll tell you, when we started with LSAs, and I can’t remember if this was before or after our Google Business Profile page disappeared briefly, we actually got a decent amount of traction with it. 

I think one of the things that we were doing, and I think this was a mistake in retrospect, was when something wasn’t a qualified lead, Google said, “Well, of course, you can ask for a refund.” You know, it wasn’t qualified, you don’t have to pay for it. So we were like, “Okay, let’s ask for a refund.” Google’s in the business of making money, and I mean you talk about the cynic, that’s probably a piece, is what is your percentage of requesting reimbursement or whatever for a non-qualified lead?

Jim: And we know 100% that that is a piece. They call it engagement. And engagement means are you effectively engaging? So if you have a call with somebody, and then you say that it’s not a good lead and you say that doesn’t work for me, over time you’re essentially whittling down the types of terms and users that Google wants to send you. So it’s very possible. And that’s why we do the restart. It’s like, we want to try to disconnect all of that previous history. Because yeah, I remember talking with folks and I was like, “Maybe don’t.”

Darl: Yeah, it’s probably safe. Just don’t ask for the refund.

Jim: Yeah, maybe don’t. We’ve gone as far—and this is for anybody who’s running LSAs—if you’re tapped in enough with the numbers, you don’t actually need to dispute anything. Like, it’s gonna pay off.

Darl: Sure, absolutely, yeah.

Jim: Do not dispute leads unless they are egregiously out of practice area. There is a level of refinement that you wanna give to Google to say, like, “I’m not a divorce attorney, and this person called for divorce. So, like, Google, whatever that query was, don’t send that to me anymore.”

Darl: Yeah. We had a recent experience, and I think maybe we turned LSA ads on for our medical malpractice area, and we got like 20 leads in like two days. And it was crazy. I mean, none of them were qualified leads in terms of—well, they weren’t cases. They weren’t valid cases. And that’s not unusual with medical malpractice. But these ones were especially not like qualified leads. I mean, these weren’t even like close calls. 

And we, you know, the only thing I can think of is maybe Google thinks that we’re a medical malpractice firm almost exclusively or thinks that we’re heavy on that. And we do handle medical malpractice cases, but, we went back and we didn’t, I don’t think we asked for a refund, but we said, let’s just shut that part off because it just, it wasn’t worth it to be having to field those leads. 

And again, you talk about that being a mystery. Which gets to the PPC, which is less of a mystery, right? Tell us a little bit about how PPC works and what y’all do with PPC.

Jim: Yeah, they’re trying to make it more of a mystery. So everything is becoming a little bit more black box with Google. So with PPC—so when we talk about clients about like what marketing channels should you invest in, we talk about PPC most when people are in areas that are not extremely competitive or areas that they want to kind of niche down into. You can’t niche down in LSAs. They have subcategories but you can’t be really prescriptive with what you want to show up for. Google’s still going to categorize search terms. 

So PPC, if you have a niche that you want to drill into, you can get really specific. Because the way that that works is, one, it’s auction based. You tell Google what key terms you want to show up for. And even that is a complicated piece because there are different match types. You can say, “I want to show up for ‘car accident lawyer’ as an exact match, and Google will only show you for that. 

Darl: And that’s gonna be very expensive.

Jim: It’s gonna be very expensive. And they’re also not good. It’s called exact, but they’re also going to give you close variant matches, which can sometimes be…

Darl: ‘car wreck lawyer’, ‘car wreck attorney,’ things like that. 

Jim: Yeah, on a good day. On a bad day, they’ll associate a brand with that. So let’s just say there’s a big advertiser that they associate with auto accidents. They might show you for Montlick or John Foy. 

Darl: And so it used to be—and this was actually a subject of a legal case in Atlanta where one of the advertising firms was bidding on the other firm’s name and it created a lot of problems—That used to be the case that, you know, that was the only way you would show up, right? Like, if somebody searched ‘Montlick’ or ‘Morgan & Morgan,’ the only way The Champion Firm would show up is if I was literally bidding on their name.

Jim: Right.

Darl: Now, Google’s getting, again, so complex with how they’re looking at this, they’re looking at searcher intent. Well, if they’re searching for Morgan & Morgan, they must be searching for a personal injury lawyer, so I’m going to serve this other firm’s ad. But interestingly, you may not know this, but Morgan and Morgan likes to send out cease and desist letters to a lot of law firms when their ads show up. 

Jim: Yeah. 

Darl: And will say that they’re violating something, which they’re not, but they’ll also ask them to put them as—is it a negative keyword?

Jim: Yeah.

Darl: So that you won’t do it, and threaten them with legal action or whatever. We’ve never gotten one of those letters, but I know other colleagues of mine have. I will not talk anymore about Morgan & Morgan. 

Jim: Yeah, well, and that is like—not not specifically for them—but that is a thing where I see a lot of firm money wasted, by not putting the right negative terms in. 

Because if an agency, especially if an agency isn’t really versed in legal PPC, like if you just hire a local marketing committee to do PPC, they’re not going to understand the nuances of these types of things. And you’re gonna be bidding on a lot of competitive terms that you might not even be aware of, that you may not want. 

And so if you’re an attorney and you’re just like, “Suddenly we’ve had an uptick in people calling for attorneys that don’t actually work here,” that’s probably what’s happening. If you’re running PPC, you probably have unmanaged negative terms that are coming in. That’s an in-the-weeds thing. 

But to kind of get back to the standard thing is, you know, you’ve got your exact match, you have phrase match. So like if you want to show up for ‘car accident lawyer’ and then something appended at the beginning or the end, you would say, “I’ll bid on a phrase that includes this.” That gets a little wild. You need a ton of negatives for that to not go off the rails. 

And then Google has a complete Wild West version, which is broad match. And broad match is where they basically say you give them a category and they’re like, “We’ll figure it out for you.” And this is what they advise. If you’re a novice to ads, like if you’re a lawyer and you want to run your own ads and you go into Google, they’re gonna basically push you towards smart campaigns or broad match campaigns because their experts are going to say it’s easier to manage if you run the campaigns broadly and let the algorithm figure out what’s working for you. The problem is you’ll never have enough money to see it to the end…

Darl: Right, they’ll spend your entire budget.

Jim: It’ll spend your full budget. So you can’t go into it like—I would say that’s my biggest advice for—PPC is market-to-market dependent. It doesn’t work for everybody. The markets can drive people out. Sometimes the ROI doesn’t make sense. And some firms that are really capitalized will intentionally drive competitors out. 

Darl: Yes, we’re not naming any names here. 

Jim: It just happens. 

Darl: In talking about PPC, I’ve heard a lot of people ask this question of does spending money on ads affect their either local maps rankings or SEO?— We’ll talk about LSAs separate, in terms of whether it affects LSAs—And Google’s official position is no, it doesn’t.

Jim: Right.

Darl: What’s your experience?

Jim: We’ve never been able to correlate ranking changes with PPC spend, but we have been able to correlate click through rate a little bit. 

So having ads up will give you about 10% more clicks, all things being equal, just because you’re visible, so you kind of get this subconscious look of if you’re in the ads and they see your name and then you also rank, let’s say position two, you’ve kind of made an association already with that user as they’re just skimming.

So we have seen about a 10% boost on that. It varies, but as far as actual ranking position correlated with when are you running ads and when are you spending money and all that, we’ve never seen it. So I kind of believe Google for the most part. 

Darl: What about LSAs? Have you seen PPC spends affect LSA visibility? 

Jim: No, I haven’t seen that either. Those actually seem really unrelated because I can think of a number of clients that we have who don’t spend on PPC at all and have extreme LSA visibility. Yeah. More of the correlation is really good SEO and GBP profiles, are a little bit more correlated. So I think there’s almost more of an SEO, just authority piece, with LSAs versus like the relation between LSAs and PPC.

Darl: When OpenAI and ChadGPT launched, it was like, “The world is changing.” And I think there’s like the tech hype cycle, you know: “What is it?” Like it goes up and then it just falls down and stays down for years and I kind of got that sense. It was like all of a sudden: “All these people were gonna be unemployed” and it was crazy. Like, “Lawyers aren’t gonna have jobs.” 

Like, “This is nonsense.” And so then Google, then it appears, wanted to kind of get in on the rush to that and had been working on developing an AI-type search module for a while, but maybe rushed it out pretty quickly when ChatGPT came out. Tell us a little bit about that, what it’s called, and how you see that being utilized in the future. 

Jim: Yeah, so it’s the Search Generative Experience. So, SGE. It’s currently in Google Lab. So if people have access to the Google Lab through their Google account, you could actually experience this right now.

It’s hard to predict where it’s gonna go because it’s very much in beta right now. Like right now that experience, they’ve essentially repackaged the Search experience to make it a little bit more chat-friendly. So if I have a browser up with current SERP results and the new stuff, you can just see where they re-mapped things. 

They just made it a little bit nicer to type it in, you can kind of feel like you’re generating your own journey here in a different way than like, oh, a search engine feels very static So they’ve found a way to make it more dynamic. But that’s this beta version one.

I think where Google really wants to go—and we’ll see where this goes—is like, if you look at the evolution of like what Google has tried to do from a content display, they want to keep people in their Search page. They really don’t like click-throughs. So when you type something into this generative display, they’re trying to pull even more information from websites without giving them credit and then having that displayed. 

So if you if you do a long-tail query of a FAQ right now, not thinking about the AI piece of it, you’re going to get a featured snippet. Just like an answer to your question. It’s gonna be highlighted and it’s going to have a little link to the source of that information.

In this new experience, they’ve summarized information. They haven’t even linked to a direct source. So I think that they’re trying to really just continue to go down that path of like keeping users on the page. And then they will figure out how to monetize that, because I think they do want what’s best for a user as long as it’s financially viable for them to do what they’re doing. 

Darl: Right. So this all comes back to Google making money. They’re a business. 

Jim: Yes.

Darl: Publicly traded company.

Jim: Yes.

Darl: Their number one goal is to make as much money as possible. 

Jim: And they’re gonna take your content and compile it and, I guess a few predictions just for fun: we can look back at this and figure out how wrong I was.

Darl: Sure we’ll have you on in a year to see if you were right. 

Jim: Yeah. It’s gonna be more important than ever to be top three or four in the search results if this version goes forward, because they’re going to push people into that generative experience and away from the standard experience. 

If it’s this version, I hope that they make it much more dynamic to where, if you used to have something broad like ‘who should I hire for my personal injury case?’ it’ll give you kind of what you’re typically seeing now. But if you say something more precise, like ‘I want someone with like the best winning percentage’ or something that could actually be empirically proven, I’d love to see them do that where users can really go down a path and Google can start to gather more information that they’re not getting now. 

Because I think that’s what people really want down this AI path, is they want to be able to have this experience answered for them in their prompt engineering. 

Darl: It sounds like reviews are gonna be important.

Jim: Reviews are super important. We’re even seeing now that it’ll say something like one person thinks this firm is professional, one person thinks things this firm did that. So reviews will continue to be important.

Darl: Interesting.

So let me think here, as we wrap up, what I want to ask. Oh: Given these changes, do you still recommend that lawyers invest in SEO? Understanding, obviously, you’re an SEO agency, right? So you’ve got some skin in the game here. 

But there’s other things that y’all do, right? And, you know, and y’all also started being a direct mail marketing agency. So what is your thought? I mean, your agency’s evolved over the years. Do you still recommend that lawyers, let’s talk about personal injury lawyers in particular, invest in SEO? 

Jim: Generally, yes, but I would say we take a very fiduciary slant to everything that we recommend. And I think that… I think that attorneys broadly—injury lawyers especially—should invest in building the equity of their website because it is something that they own and it’s something that matters to potential clients. And I do believe that it will continue to matter to search engines, at least in the foreseeable future, you know, the next five to 10 years. 

It’s gonna look really different. It might be skin different, the experience will be different, but I do think that people should invest in growing the authority of their website. Whether that looks like SEO does today, I don’t know. But it’s the one of few things that you can truly own as an attorney digitally.

Darl: Sure.

Jim: You know, you don’t own your ads, everything else is on a platform: Filevine, Avvo, in all those places. So making that something that has value in a virtual world still feels like it’s really important over the long run. 

Darl: So before we sign off, there’s going to be personal injury attorneys listening to this. Tell us what would your advice be to them on, when they’re getting contacted by these SEO agencies, or they’re considering either switching or starting, what should they look for in an SEO agency?

Jim: I think that they just need to look for a track record of success, both long-term and short-term. I would also highly encourage them to make sure that the tactics that are going to be deployed can be clearly articulated, and it’s not just buzzwords. 

Like, I’ve had a lot of conversations with attorneys who are like, they don’t want to know what we’re going to do. They just want it to work. We’ve struggled with that because sometimes there are decisions that have to be made. We have to articulate two paths that we can go down and we can make a recommendation, but being invested in that. So do some homework up front. Look at a track record of success. Have a budget in mind. 

This is one thing that I think can go good or bad, but when you don’t have a budget in mind you are going to put yourself at risk for people who are not looking out for your best interests. And they’re just going to try to maximize that because there’s—a misconception of SEO is that SEO can be done in any budget. 

Like a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta can come to an agency and say, “I want you to do $1,500 worth of SEO work every month.” And if an agency is competent, they could say, “Yeah, we can do some work for you.” I don’t know how much that’s really going to move the needle, but you should be able to say, “Okay, well, just focus on content generation or just focus on this, and maybe we’ll grow over time.” That should be possible. So knowing a budget makes a ton of sense. Because somebody might back you down, too. They may say, “Oh, your market doesn’t actually need $30,000.”

Darl: Sure, you backed us down, right? 

Jim: Yeah.

Darl: I mean, even though we’re in a competitive market, it was, I think you looked at our website and some of the good things that we had. Again, we weren’t starting from scratch. We weren’t the law firm that, you know, I just hung a shingle a month ago. It had been going on for a few years. 

What about, what do you tell lawyers who are talking to an agency that is going to own their content? Where the agency owns it? Does that still exist, by the way?

Jim: Yeah. I think it does. I don’t really see—well, I do actually see one reason why that can’t happen. And I think that this goes down to things to ask in an interview with an agency is, what are you paying for and when? 

I think a lot of times the ownership comes down to you actually haven’t paid for that work yet. And that’s something that we’ve encountered before. So I think there’s kind of like three different paths here: 

There is the lease forever model. Filevine used to do this. I don’t know if they still do, but it was basically like they’re gonna produce all this work for you, but if you don’t continue to pay them, you’re essentially leasing that. 

Then there’s the I own everything from the moment we start working together. I—as the lawyer—own everything. 

And then there’s the model that we’ve actually had to use a couple times, which is is there are different ways to price things. And I think that the pricing transparency conversation gets really murky of, if somebody builds you a 100-page website that’s custom and you’ve only paid $10,000 of that upfront fee and the rest of it might be amortized and maybe that’s not clearly communicated, who owns it then?

Darl: Sure.

Jim: Because a lot of agencies recognize that like, a firm doesn’t wanna spend $80,000 on a website, even though that may be what they need. So they spread that cost out. And I think that’s where the murkiness comes in. It’s like, when do you own it? And be reasonable about owning it when it’s paid for. And also be reasonable about what are you getting. 

Like, if an agency is saying, “We’ll produce 80 pages of content for you for $5,000,” you’re either getting computer-generated content or you’re paying for that some other way. It’s baked into something. Just ask where that’s going so you can have an understanding of like, what ownership should you ask for that’s reasonable and fair?

Darl: Well, Jim, thanks for joining us. This has been a very helpful conversation for me, learning a lot about SEO. I feel like I had a decent foundation, but I’ve learned a lot today. 

For anybody listening that wants to check you guys out and find out more about the work you do, where can they find you online?

Jim: Yeah, just If you have any questions for us, want a quote, just generally wanna pick our brains about what’s going on in the space, we’re always happy to chat. So, and you’ll either connect with me or with somebody on our team.

Darl: Awesome, well, thanks everybody for joining us. Hope that you’ll join us for our next episode next month. Thank you.

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