SEO expert, Chris Dreyer, explains exactly what an SEO agency does and what firms are missing out on by not hiring one (like a 3X growth in revenue).
When you’re running your own law practice, it can be tempting to try to do everything yourself. Delegating tasks to someone else can be a costly expense many solo lawyers believe they simply can’t afford.
But as most lawyers know, with some things, there can be a high cost for doing things pro se.
It’s entirely possible for an attorney to learn the basics about SEO, and even do well with certain tactics, like mastering Local SEO.
But solos may be missing out on a huge market opportunity by not hiring an SEO agency.
As crowded as the online market is for legal services, most small firms do not make a full commitment to SEO marketing. This creates a huge marketing opportunity for many practice areas.
For those of you who have aspirations to compete with the heavy hitters of legal marketing, we interviewed attorney SEO expert and founder of Rankings.io, Chris Dreyer, to get the inside scoop on SEO agencies, and whether solos should consider hiring one.
LFS: What is the difference between an “agency” and a consultant who offers SEO services?
Dreyer: An agency generally has more bandwidth to perform the scope of work required to facilitate effective SEO services because they are a part of a larger team. An agency typically has the resources to delegate tasks to specialized departments to get the work done. On the other hand, a consultant may oversee trusted third party vendors or agencies to do the work he or she recommends.
LFS: Your agency specializes in law firms. What do you do differently from an agency that works with multiple industries?
Dreyer: The legal sector is one of the most saturated and competitive markets on the net. Since we only work with attorneys, we have intimate knowledge of all associations, legal businesses, awards, review sites, top personal authorities and lead generation companies needed to enhance SEO value for the websites of law firms.
It’s impossible for a jack-of-all-trades SEO agency to have this type of knowledge because they are working with many industries. We also have licensed in-house attorney writers who provide content that meets lawyer advertising ethics rules. Lastly, we conduct competitor backlink analysis on other law firm websites. This helps us learn exactly what the top ranking law firm websites must include into order to rank well in search.
LFS: How did you develop your particular expertise in law firm websites?
Dreyer: In the past, I was an affiliate marketer. As I began to do well with affiliate marketing, more and more businesses began requesting my services to improve their website’s search engine rank. I knew it was important for me to specialize so that I would be seen as an authority more quickly in a specific area.
While my name recognition had grown from affiliate marketing and consulting, it still wasn’t to the level where I was going to get consistent referral business. I had to be known as an expert as quickly as possible to improve my chances of conversions.
I was drawn to the legal sector because there is a strong demand for marketing services. There is so much competition in the legal industry that it requires specialized, higher-end tactics to do well in large, metropolitan areas.
LFS: If they are not doing it themselves, most lawyers end up hiring a consultant to perform SEO services. What extra value do firms get by working with an agency as opposed to these consultants?
Dreyer: Top tier agencies have systematic and time-tested strategies. They also have more bandwidth to perform a wider scope of services because there is a larger number of people involved. It’s not to say that a consultant cannot be great at what he or she does but they only have so much time to perform those services. The legal industry is very competitive and it takes a strong, consistent approach to marketing to achieve results.
LFS: Many lawyers — especially solos and small firms — may feel that they can’t afford the services of an agency. Any truth to this?
Dreyer: It depends on the location and practice area. For example, personal injury is very, very competitive so the barrier to entry is much higher than, say, trademark or family law. Also, a major city like Los Angeles is going to be more competitive than a smaller town like Carbondale, Illinois.
With all that said, an agency with a successful track record can often double or triple a firm’s revenue because of their systematic, time-tested techniques for getting results.
Be sure to read case studies, testimonials, get references, etc. before selecting an agency. The initial investment can be high, but the long-term results can be worth it. I would also advise lawyers to be wary of those who promise immediate results.
There is no such thing in the legal SEO world.
LFS: Is there any minimum budget that a firm needs in order to benefit from working with an agency like yours?
Dreyer: It depends on the legal services they provide, their location and their competition. Each location is different. If the top ranking competitors all have 10,000 referring domains and your site only has 100, then you’ve got some work to do. However, it’s not all about links. It’s also about content, social presence, citations and reviews. It’ll ultimately depend on the location and services the firm provides.
LFS: Lawyers typically start a new practice on a low budget and only increase marketing spend as revenue increases. Is it worthwhile for an attorney to find funds to hire an agency early on in their practice as an investment in their marketing, even if they can’t necessarily afford it?
Dreyer: It depends on how you look at it. There has to be some sort of marketing for the business in order to attract potential clients. However, law firm marketing investments need to be reinforced with references and case studies from satisfied clients. If you do invest in marketing, try to model your competition, review analytics and collect conversion information to determine your actual ROI.
LFS: Could hiring an agency produce enough results to make up for the expense? If yes, do you have a sense of how long that could take?
Dreyer: Most digital marketing agencies will tell you it takes at least 6 months to see any results for SEO. There isn’t a magic number of months, but what I can tell you is SEO does take time. In most cases, particularly in the legal industry, it’s going to take at least four months to see SEO improvements. For paid search engine marketing like pay-per-click, you should see immediate results. Pay very close attention to your analytics on a month-to-month basis.
LFS: Based on what you’ve seen, which practice areas get the highest ROI from agency services? Which get the lowest ROI? Why do you think that is?
Dreyer: We’ve seen success in many areas of the law, but there isn’t a practice area that will guarantee success. For example, personal injury law firms usually need the assistance of a professional digital marketing agency because that is a very competitive practice area. We work with many areas of the law and the strategies differ per sector.
Although SEO and marketing are essential for law firm growth, it can be challenging for solo lawyers to handle it themselves. Even if they do find the time, there is no guarantee they’ll do it right. Some things are simply better when they’re left up to the experts. That’s something lawyers understand.
Tell us what you think. Should solo attorneys attempt to handle SEO themselves? Would you be more comfortable hiring an agency or a consultant? Leave a comment below.