108. Seth Price, Price Benowitz Developing a Winning Strategy and the Future of SEO

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Seth Price is at the forefront of cutting-edge digital marketing. His early experimentation and innovation grew his firm, DC-based Price Benowitz, from two attorneys into a thriving practice of 40 in under a decade. Seth spun out his in-house marketing team and founded the full-service digital marketing agency BluShark Digital. Today, Seth and his team serve attorneys in 31 states and Canada.

I sat down with Seth to dig into how algorithm changes affect ROI, reclassifying digital marketing strategy as a business asset, and the major market disruptors of SEO.

Whats In This Episode

  • Who is Seth Price?
  • Implementing innovative SEO strategy
  • The merits of traditional vs. digital marketing
  • How to pick content for your marketing strategy
  • Why fixed spending no longer guarantees ROI in PPC campaigns
  • What it means when an agency offers exclusivity

Transcript

Seth Price

That’s what scared me. When I spun this out was you could take 10 clients and do well for them. You could have a couple of guys assisting. That’s not the issue. The issue is at scale. Can this be done at the elite level?

Sonya Palmer

Blanket SEO tactics can only take your firms so far. Selecting an SEO company that understands the legal space and provides lasting value is essential to scale.
Seth Price

One guy in his boxers can take out a couple sites and do some good work, but is that something that’s going to be replicable and scalable? Because you see a lot of stuff where, that’s great for one site, but can you get that across your entire portfolio?

Sonya Palmer

You’re listening to Personal Injury Mastermind the show where elite personal injury attorneys and leading edge marketers give you exclusive access to growth strategies for your firm. I’m Sonya Palmer, VP of operations at Rankings and host our new podcast LawHer, a look at the brightest and boldest female attorneys in criminal, PI, family law, and beyond. At Rankings, we help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings with search engine optimization. Today, we’re doing things a little differently. I’m filling in for Chris who caught up with founding partner of DC-based Price Benowitz, Seth Price. Growing a law firm from two partners to a team of 40 in less than a decade requires an in-depth understanding of the digital marketing. Seth was an early adopter of SEO and workshopped each new strategy on his firm. Seth led his in-house team was so much success that he created an entirely separate venture BluShark Digital. Today the agency serves lawyers in 31 states and Canada. An important first step for any lawyer is to really understand the people around them. So let’s get to know our guests. Here’s founding partner at Price Benowitz and founder of BluShark, digital Seth Price.

Seth Price

I built a website and it took off and we Hired another lawyer built another website, hire another lawyer a strategy that may not be what’s in vogue today, but worked really well. When we started and then started digging deeper into different verticals and different jurisdictions. I’m well aware that through normal relationship referral marketing, I couldn’t have had the growth that we had, but it was literally fundamental SEO and digital marketing that drove that growth.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s fantastic. your Price Benowitz, being an SEO person myself it ranks incredibly well. You have many clients from BluShark, which are going to talk about the do really well. Let’s talk about just a little bit touching on that and on the referral side. Expand on that, about what you mean. Cause a lot of people are like, just get referrals.

Seth Price

And there’s nothing. It’s awesome. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s amazing. I love it. My firm started before we did PI. My law partner was a sort of a lawyer’s lawyer on the criminal side and, referrals on criminal or really tough. You get a settlement check, people tell their friends, you get divorced, you go through it. You’re going through that for a long period of time and somebody gets you through it. But like on the criminal side referrals, you can go to all the BNIs you want. You’re not going to make a buck. You might get a case here or there, but the ROI, your time is really tough. So to me, you talk about, digital marketing and legal, right? We’re really talking about the B to C side. Of the world, and of that, there’s the sector that you focus on and the contingency in PI med mal world, that’s probably half the game there, but that, I always look at that there’s like almost like a slope and the areas like criminal, where there’s less TV players. No billboards that people get arrested. They’re not talking to their friends about it. That’s the most ripe, let’s say for digital in the injury space. Some people see their friends who got a big check. Some may see a TV advertisement or a billboard and many go to digital where it’s great. But it’s not the only ship. And then as you go down that, and then you see family and at the bottom, it might be like trusts and estates where most of it is referral-based. Most people are going to a financial planner and a very small subset of them are going to digital. The good news is less people are fighting for it.So you have a better shot compared to a PI where there is no secret. Everybody is doing it, that, looking at each of those. And understanding where you are in that sort of continuum, as far as how many eggs should be in that basket.

Chris Dreyer

That makes a lot of sense that. The other thing that I immediately think of is like a criminal attorney when they’re trying to get a review, the consumer’s not going to say I spoke with my attorney and he was the best domestic battery lawyer.,

Seth Price

We’ve been playing the review game for a lot longer than it’s been hip and yes, that’s a huge issue. So you just want to talk about you talking about firm, and then all of a sudden Google brought in, Hey, we want to see terms in our review, which gets dicey. And so things like. Hey, we don’t really want you talking about it, but maybe the point of contact the person paying for the case, et cetera. Using that as a way in, and then just to finish that thought from before, something like trust and estates, everybody needs a will. Going back to relationship marketing, there are areas where it works really well. To market to find, whether it be real estate agents or financial planners, they can make a trust and estate lawyer, a lot of money. Similarly, a PI lawyer, they can go to non PI lawyers. And the great thing about that world is, offering people a third of cases, they send you, there’s a built in mechanism for that to take place in most markets. And you’re basically balancing those different things. And I also say, and I think this is, you probably agree with this for yourself. People do what they like to do. You like this podcast, you do the podcast. If you didn’t like doing it, you’d have one podcast and there’ll be no more. So when a lawyer comes to me and says, should I blog. I’m like if you love to write, do it because it’ll get deep and people will connect and it’s going to be it’ll create great content and you’ll do it, whereas how many blogs do you see where there’s been like one post and then it disappears or they do one post and then it’s just regurgitating blog content and figuring out what you like to do. So if you love to network, you know me I love that. I’ve done a lot of that. You like sitting here, you, people come to you, you sit in your place, they come to your podcast and they hire you. That’s freaking awesome. So I think you have to figure out what you like to do, what resources you have. And then with that, I could have networked from today until, 40 years and not had three criminal lawyers because there’s only so much you can do. In that world versus other areas. And we know PI lawyers who don’t do hardly any digital and are just known in their community. People know it’s where they go to, and they’re not paying a Rankings or a BluShark. They’re keeping a hundred cents on the dollar after their sweat equity of a networking. And there’s probably margins that’s surpass larger advertising firms.

Chris Dreyer

the firm that comes to mind is Shunnarah right? Shunnarah has got the billboard king, he’s got tons of billboards, but he has always been resistant to SEO and content marketing. It’s because he’s done really well with the billboards in that traditional marketing space. You’ve excelled at SEO and content marketing. So how did you identify that this was like a great channel and when did you know it was time to spin it out into its own marketing business.

Seth Price

We knew very early on that there was something there, it wasn’t called SEO and built a website and, didn’t know I was doing SEO, I was putting content up my original content way back in the day by today’s standards, absurdly spammy, a personal injury lawyer in DC needs a DC personal injury lawyer, crazy nonsense. My partner would cringe on the crib, but I worked, our biggest blog posts early on was I was at a Brittany Spears DUI that got on before the AP, it just blew up. It didn’t make us a penny, I was, I Google and find every directory that was out there and just start making submissions myself and then an assistant and two assistants just, there was no industry of SEO. You knew that if you took certain actions and built just building out the website, most people had a brochure-ware and if you went one step beyond brochure-ware, over time, I connected with people like our good buddy, Jason Hennessy and others, where I was just like, I need to get smart on this S and nobody knew anything. There were overseas resources that were, very spammy, but worked and balancing that it was as an entrepreneur. It’s very difficult because you knew that this overseas spamming this work. But you didn’t want to put all your eggs in that basket cause you knew at some point that gig was going to be up and sure enough, it was knowing when to spin it out as a really good question. I was probably pretty late to the game and a a lot of respects because I wanted to get it right for myself. Like every dollar I put into marketing my firm the same conversation you might have so many, why shouldn’t they do SEO in-house and I said, know what what if you can get the right resources in house, God bless you. There’s questions of do you really have the right skill sets? are you gonna have turnover? Can it be managed, et cetera? All those are fair, valid questions, but I was building that mousetrap myself. they’re an elite number of us that I feel like, know what we’re doing. There are plenty of people out there that said, Hey, I’m here. I’m your SEO guy. And you scratch beneath the surface. They have a hundred clients and 10 employees, and you’re like, how could you possibly be adding any value to people? So I felt like I had to build a mouse trap first, scalable for myself. I had a whole family of websites that was in the dozens. And I felt like until I had my own systems down, it was very tough to make that leap. For me, a person who I had mentored from intern to, manager to director is somebody who is able to take that. And it was partially. Giving that person and our team opportunity, which again, an issue with an internal marketing team is that there’s no real way for advancement. You’re not cutting that person in on the law firm, maybe in Arizona, you can now, but generally that’s not an option. And that people generally, because as a, as an internal cost rather than an opportunity. So by spinning it out A) I felt the systems were right, but B) I had gone through a revolving door historically of losing top deputies every couple years because it wasn’t just, they were going off to compete. It was more like, I’ll do something else there. Wasn’t a, there wasn’t a future there one guy became a sports agent, another guy did international government contracts. They were like, Hey, I can’t see anywhere to go. And right now, we’re able to, I think, build and scale and have silos of people where the great people become managers and have a future. And that’s different than, so wait until I got to critical mass and could roll that out and provide value as opposed to just saying I’m another schmuck SEO.

Chris Dreyer

What I love. is you have a natural feedback loop. So you have Price Benowitz, you get to see where it works and then you can go implement it. Part of what this podcast is for me is, I don’t own a law firm. So I get to speak with individuals like yourself, experts, other attorneys, and I use it for a feedback loop to then I can improve. Then I can try to provide more value to the clients that I serve. The other thing recently, Seth is, and I’m glad you mentioned this about spinning it out everyone talks about M and A, and they talk about the different, trajectories for business growth. Yeah, M and A, is this horizontal integration. Typically it’s like a complimentary service and most people don’t think of the vertical integration, which would be backwards integration where it’s maybe you outsource content to strategic partners and you bring it in-house or you’re an auto manufacturer that just buys the tires and then you start making the tires for you. Your forward integration is the marketing company in a reverse manner. Typically you have a, the marketing agency and then you want to go to the consumer. So you’ve got an auto dealer and now he has an auto dealership where they’re selling the cars or a manufacturer than the dealership. So there’s a lot of ways to spin this. And I think it’s super smart and, with the whole contingency restriction on many marketers that are, don’t have the legal degree. you’re giving value and you’re treating those people in a way that they can have growth

Seth Price

I think that you’re an exception to the rule because you have a number of close contacts where your feedback loop is pretty darn good. we have used our firm, as I’m sure some of your top clients are sort of the incubator. It works at Price Benowitz we’ll roll it out to others because the analogy that I give, and this is the, this is the dirty secret that you and I live with. Things that you can do that could get law firm success very quickly. They don’t see it as much recently, but there used to be, don’t pay me till you’re on the first page of Google. Don’t pay till certain things are done. And I’m always like very reticent in those things, because to me, what’s under the hood.You could get somebody there very quickly. The question is, will they remain? And the analogy I always give people is somebody who’s doing a renovation on a, if they’re renovating a house or apartment, there’s a certain number of things that, you may or may not pull a permit for. And nobody’s ever know if you’d don’t pull a permit for dry walls, anybody really going to find out is that going to come down on your head? No, but if you don’t pull a permit for an electrical change, It’s all fine till the house burns down. And all of a sudden, you’re in trouble. Now, if you’re going to live in the house that risk calculus changes, right? You could say, you know what, I’m not going to pull a permit. It burns down, I’ll get my family out. Nobody’s suing me. Versus if you’re going to put renters in there, then all of a sudden that risk calculus changes. And so to me, it’s always really fascinating. And I think that all of us go through a frenetic thought process about what pulleys we want to pull, how close to a private blog network are you, how many types of links are you getting from places that are on the bubble? What is gray versus black versus white? And if it’s your own ranking, And you’ve done very well with your sort of legal SEO for market prominence. Like you can take risks that you may not want to take with somebody else’s money or somebody else’s, rental, but with your place, you can do certain things. And so that’s always a back and forth for me between the aggressiveness, because your best friend client. If you make a wrong move and the house burns down, it’s lawsuit or worse. We saw like early on, people turn very quickly. you want to make sure that you’re doing right, that it’s white hat I take it even more seriously for somebody else’s house. And that to me is always that bad. Forth between making sure it’s aggressive enough to get our ROI and move the business along, help them dominate. But at the same time, you’d like to be able to educate people, but unless you had almost like going to one of these crazy extreme sport things, there’s a new thing in New York where you can climb up a flight of stairs, 60 flights above the earth, and you’re signing away your life before you do it. If you could get a client to say I’m going to do some batshit crazy stuff. And you have to be good with it crashing. There’s this percent chance it’s going to crash. Like it’s all well, until it crashes in which case, you know it. So I’m always struggling with that. piece where you want to be super aggressive. I test as much as I can, but that’s a piece of the puzzle.

Chris Dreyer

I’ve ran into that many times too. And some, and we do have some of those clients that are like, Hey, let’s do this. I’m like, whoa, let me tell you what will happen if you do. Let’s talk about the risks, and it’s a short term viewpoint on some of those decisions,

Sonya Palmer

I love that Seth sees crazy ideas as opportunities to uplevel the digital marketing game. Chris wanted to know how algorithm changes pushed BluShark further.

Seth Price

I’ve historically I’ve always loved algorithm updates because every time they’ve hit, they’ve pushed us further. If you do the fundamentals, we know the fundamentals, it’s, there’s no secrets of, high quality links, great authoritative content, coded site, you put those things together. So that generally again, and there are exceptions again, some percentage of your people are going to hit this local, recent, a local piece that, that hit with proximity. Some of the more dominant players have had some issues because all of a sudden that one downtown Chicago location is not the golden child anymore. You need seven golden children to own a city, not one. given that they’re all these different voices out in people’s ears, I think the good news is the market has consolidated that there are not a thousand people out there. There’s a handful of people that seem to have gotten consistent results over time. And to me, that’s a good thing in that, there is a path to follow. If you follow it with time and resources, that you’ll have a good chance for success.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. You have to adapt, like you, you have to look at things that are timeless and evergreen and you have to be willing to iterate when you need to, like we’ve touched a lot on the local and SEO and content marketing and completely agree on those three core principles, good content, good links, a well coded site. That’s the pillars of SEO and if you get one of those wrong, a lot of times you can’t rank. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time it takes all three, I know you’re very pro digital, but let’s not ostracize. And only talk about, digital is as the way. Where does traditional marketing come into place? TV, radio, billboards.

Seth Price

you dance with what you like and what you’re good at and what you can test ROI. Look, we both know plenty of people that made a lot of money with advertising. They’ve crushed markets. I’m not one of those people that says you should do SEO in lieu of X, Y, or Z. There are people have run internal referral programs that are amazing, that I’m envious of. I think you, you dance with what you got. I’ve morphed to the point where I’m not going to convince somebody to do SEO like the meaning if they want it. I am one of the providers that, you know, and I could show somebody how we plan to roll things out for them, what we do past successes, no guarantee of future results. We can give them a roadmap. But to me that, isn’t the conversation that I love to have because I’m not going to say, if you can make money with radio, you should do it. If you make money with TV, God bless it. As better than anybody, probably like the guys who do TV, it makes your job that much easier. And you’re able to get a conversion rate in search. You get somebody to fourth spot, not the first spot, and yet they have a brand in the market that’s going to convert and you’re going to look better and there. So this is not an either, or I say. this is the piece of the widget that we’re going to do. We’re not pretending to do your TV for you. In fact, I could say this to make it say pretty certainly there’s almost no example of a great digital provider that also does TV. I’m sure somebody’s going to call me up. And there, there are people that are improving what was defective. I get it, but there was a very prominent TV shop that does everything. And I was at a conference and they’re very nice, lovely, awesome. Evangelists. I was like, tell me who your three greatest digital success stories are. And they gave me three and I looked all three with her. Not one was on the first two pages. There was third, fourth, fifth pages of Google. Now this is just to say the analogy I always give is, growing up the gift for a teenager was the stereo. It had a turntable, it had a tuner. And when I was of age, it was a cassette player earlier. later it was 8 track, later it was DVD.. And I, to me, it was like back in the day, the widget was like $200 plus or minus and everything you wanted but my friends who were real sound aficionados wouldn’t do that. They buy a separate turntable, a separate tape that goes a separate tuner and that gave you better sound. And so to me, the interesting thing about what should you do? Whatever works I’m agnostic on. I just love this particular piece of it because I love it. I do it really well. And we focus on that and we’re not pretending to say we’re going to be your TV, media ad buyer. Part of it has been that from historically the people with TV and regional brands. Made so much money. They didn’t care about that. Or you’ve seen this, you’ve seen big TV players who are pound your chest and they have no real local SEO. Now Google has done a good job. Good job. They’ve done a good job recently of identifying that because of the name search coming in and giving them credit and bump them up. But generally. Th there are many guys who crushed it left fewer and farther between, but you get people, like you gotta be shitting me. Like, how could you be this sophisticated, be this dominant a market, have no SEO less and less, more than without people like you and me and others. for many years, that was that huge jump. And there still are some of those unicorns out there that they make so much money. They just don’t care

Chris Dreyer

when I see those individuals and we run our ARS or SEMrush report and I see, nothing’s ranking and I see the homepage and it’s got, 10,000 searches for the brand, I’m licking my lips. Because it’s just primed.

Seth Price

Sometimes you get it. And sometimes, don’t, sometimes they’re like, no, we’re good. Yep. the running joke within our industry, which is here’s somebody who’s so right. It wouldn’t take that much to move the needle and yet they’ll. Yeah, I’m good. So part of it is, we worked with a number of people in that space with like mega TV players. And totally dysfunctional operations. And it was amazing that they, I felt like they made money despite it, which showed how powerful TV was for very long time. And not that it’s dead, there are still people making money with it.

Sonya Palmer

Digital marketing today requires more resources than in the past. Chris asked Seth about how the market has changed and how to better understand ROI.

Seth Price

It takes more resources today, this is what has switched and yours, I think responsible for helping move the market as anybody, which is it used to be, you pay.$5000 or $10,000 for SEO and the phone rang and it was an unlimited ROI. You know what we just saw with this proximity search is Google saying, no, they’re cutting back more and more on the free lunch. Which kind of sucks, but I think that instead of measuring your ROI, as we were counting my paid search or counting my LSAs, but this is just a freebie that the difference is that people were saying it’s not a free lunch anymore. That Google’s getting more sophisticated in a bunch of areas. And that the competition is raised. There’s a handful of very good agencies out there that so in a given market there’ll be multiple people fighting for it. And that people are now looking at stuff as an ROI. And that if they’re making the idea of oh, I could spend. $10,000 a month on something. And I’m getting, let’s say $50,000 worth of cases. I’m making this up when people are saying, oh, it’s not like it’s a free lunch. If I spend 20, I could start seeing more and looking at it. The way they look at paid search people look at paid search and they really dig down deep. They really dig deep to say, what is my ROI from that? People are slowly starting to look at that from organic in a way that historically they haven’t, they looked at it like I pay a flat amount and I get a ton.The ability to get ROI from traditional PPC in some markets doesn’t exist anymore. Or if it is it’s at a number where you’re essentially gambling, hoping to get a five-star case. History is written by the victor. LSAs gave us a moment of a panacea where there was some crazy ROI. Great. But that was as we’ve seen, already tightened up so that as those things go away, a lead gen, sometimes you get a good lead gen. Mo often it’s nonsense. I know for myself, cause I test a ton of them, couple of work, but it’s, again, it’s if they’re buying PPC and as good as they are, it’s showing that all of a sudden your options for ROI are so few and far between now it comes back. I’m not looking at this as let me pay a flat amount and hope for something it’s like, people were saying, I want more, what can you do to get there? And therefore it becomes more of an ROI discussion rather than I’m going to pay this amount and hope something happens.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. I think the big thing that. We talked about there too, as SEO can be an asset, right? You’re creating equity in your site. The more content that you create gives you, the more opportunities may not necessarily rank. You may need a lot more links and things to promotion and many just time for the content to rank to become, it can become an asset. The, and I, you see those individuals still in selling four blogs a month. You can’t do that and stand out because everyone’s doing that and you’re just treading water.

Seth Price

You’re building an asset that has an opportunity for a better. The goal in life is better than a three to one ROI. That’s like the Mendoza line of your baseball fan. when you see PPC dropping below the Mendoza line potentially, which sucks, but as the costs have gone up, it’s maybe the opportunity to build that asset and see something. The devil that we have picked. To deal with, is that if not a straight line, you’re building that asset. There are points with time and resources that you get over that hump and that you can get those great ROI, but short of you’re sitting there. people, because of the limited options are now more willing to put resources in a more often saying, what can I do to expand? Whereas the traditional SEO model. When I look at the people that came before both of us then I look at page one solutions, Dan Goldstein, great guy was doing this for 15, 20 years that, one of the things he saw, which I didn’t have seen is that it used to be that you could never raise pricing. On a client clients where this is my SEO number. There’s no inflation number. It’s just, I’m there in a locked in for life. I’m seeing more and more people come to me and say, Hey, I want more. And when I look at a great player like yourself or others, the only time that I ever see somebody come to me. And say, 98% of the time when somebody comes and wants to come to our company, it’s for one, we either no is not a great company or something else. Every once in a while. It’s I remember there was, there would be somebody who was a great name that would come to us. Very often, it wasn’t, they weren’t doing a good job. They had a legacy deal for a few thousand dollars and never readjust to the fact that the four blog posts a month, don’t do it. And that if you want to do 40 pieces of content, that’s a very different price point than what you locked into 10 years ago. When much less resources were needed. So it’s not as though it was a bad group and that it’s, I don’t understand human nature piece. I’d love to get your thoughts, but I see a lot of people and you’ve been the beneficiary of this and probably, to a lesser extent that the negative is that people make a move rather than saying. Hey I just need more of what I have, but human nature doesn’t seem to do that. Like we don’t raise pricing often. I’m seeing more of it in recent months, much, much more of a recent quarters, but that there’s a psychological thing. this is what’s needed rather than I’ve spent to my detriment, I think saying, Hey, let me get you a great ROI. Rather than here are the resources to really blow this out.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. It’s Seth let’s put it on the table here. It’s not even just that they’re actually getting less because all of our costs have increased. Even do as much. So if they’ve been paying, a legacy price and, inflation every single year, inflation’s crazy, they actually get less. So it’s actually, even if you raise your prices, whatever, 3% or five, whatever the inflation is, that’s status quo.

Seth Price

Early on, I was just happy somebody were to pay us. And then all of a sudden you’re like, okay getting people to pay is not the issue. The question is, can we keep it cost effective? One of the questions you get from some upfront people it’s my price go down over time. You get that as like a wishful thing. Like it’s going to be a huge bill that our front will go down. And to a certain extent, I think that a lot of SEO agencies have used, until inflation hit the way it was that there are certain economies of scale that you get over time, as authority is built, potentially. Depends on what your goal is. If your goal is market domination versus you, a good placement with consistent cases and a good ROI. And that we, there was always that inflation component, especially when it was lower, was that you had the benefit of the authority and the time that had been there, you could use a couple less links and get away. But the combination of increased competition, that gig is up. And so that, that is where you know it, when we do see jumps, I’m sure it’s the same with you, right? I know you do quality work, but if there’s not enough resources in it, the market’s going to speak, and if you could only put so much into it then you know, those players are going to be like, Hey, I’m not getting the love that I wanted. It dovetails to an interesting question. I got a lot more of that. I feel like again, a few players have done as good a job as any of scale. That’s what scared me. When I spun this out was You could take 10 clients and do well. You could have a couple of guys assisting that’s not the issue. The issue is at scale. Can this be done at the elite level? that piece dovetails into this cost question, one guy in his boxers can take out a couple sites and do some good work, but is that something that’s going to be replicable and scalable once you get to that point with teams, the benefit that we have is that with great managers, they can, train up the right people. We don’t do a ton of lateral hiring, in the legal world, the big, bad corporate firms. I worked for a crevasse, which is like one of the best corporate law firms in the world. And historically I think it’s changed over the years, but when I was there back in the day as a clerk they. Only took on summer associates and first years and train them in their way. The Cravath way. I would rather have the BluShark methodology with great managers that buy in training people. We now have a huge summer classical and fellows that build up in order to replicate because it is the replication and consistency over time. That gets you that ROI versus some visionary that has a crazy idea that works, but that isn’t the scalable component because you see a lot of stuff where, that’s great for one site, but can you get that across your entire portfolio?

Chris Dreyer

I think of it from more of a binary perspective, there are some hybrids and I think this is applicable to any business. So when you’re thinking about scale, you can scale. Vertically in terms of increasing fees and can continue to go up market, And you scale by getting bigger and better clients or you can scale horizontally and more and more product desertion, repeatable assembly line, Henry Ford style and the legal vertical. Saying it binary your settlement firm versus your litigating firm, you take an individual like Lanier. He doesn’t need more than the case. He gets a year or whatever, he’s getting maximum value versus these large settlement firms. They need a lot of reps, there’s different advantages to each, You need these great trial attorneys versus maybe just some paralegals and people that do the work and can settle them. Pre-lit there are hybrids that have the big trial reputation and have maybe a settlement team and things like that in the marketing space.It’s the same way. So you see these firms, these large digital agencies, I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, but there, there are some that we all know that at the enterprise level. Servicing the legal space, got it

Chris Dreyer

Right. The further you go in productization, the less you can customize and the Le and the further it is a way from your executive team.
Now you can train great people and have, coaching and follow your methodology. I feel, Bloom’s taxonomy, you’ve got people that can read something, take a quiz and pass, and then you’ve got people that can teach. And then you’ve got people that can see all opportunities. It takes a lot more time and expertise.

Seth Price

Part of the reason that we’ve been successful in our respective ventures is that it’s been protected from some of those because it to scale at the levels they have the only way to really do that is through paid search. And paid search works. You put money in, you can get it. But most of those larger players haven’t really played in the SEO world when they do it’s fiction, they don’t really build content or links. How many times do you have somebody telling me about the SEO they got and they have no content of links. And he was like, this is crazy town. And that to me is the protected market that we play in is that it’s people that can’t get that. And that, ironically, we’ve seen some of the legacy players that have sold out to SaaS players and they’re literally selling a $300 product. It’s just apples and oranges to what we are doing and who we’re servicing. I sometimes feel like I’m stuck between two worlds because. We want that growth at the same time. We’re not willing to get to the, McDonaldization of the process. We need some of that in order to have efficiencies, but that if you are doing this right, it’s, your thinking about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, you’re constantly evolving. So there are best practices that need to be scaled and replicated. because if it was fully SAS operated you and I would get crushed. you can’t do it that way for the foreseeable future. if AI writing got to the point where you don’t really need to think about you just throw some and AI writing on it, like that would be a game changer where people could come in and throw stuff at it. I think we have a little bit of time before that fully happens. if looked at DUI lawyers years ago, we’re like, we’re going to be out of business because there’ll be a breathalyzer in every car, at some point when you could cheaply and quickly do SEO. Or when Google doesn’t need links and is fully based on non link input, again, I’m sure we’ll find a way to pivot into it, but the current generation doesn’t leave these larger enterprise or SAS based models really competing in the world that you and I play in.

Sonya Palmer

Digital marketing is not immune to major market disruptors. Google’s local service ads are changing what it means to offer geographic exclusivity. Chris wanted to hear Seth’s take on this complicated and often polarizing shift.

Seth Price

In our little geeky world. This is the hottest topic. it’s getting really murky as people open offices and other areas partially based on business model, partially worse on the proximity updates that, we’ve always looked at the core original spot. And use that as the beacon, if there should be right there. And everything else is fair game, but then we get,a legacy client, put a pin on the map in that mark, ironically, wasn’t even done by us. It was a pin put on the map there. my mantra and I always say this, people hear, what they want to hear is it’s that primary office, if you go beyond that, there’s not even a chance. There are people out there that think there shouldn’t be any exclusivity at all. I’m torn. I get all the different sides. Going back. I can talk about this. I remember talking to Dan Goldstein page one at early SEO. Let’s call it first-generation and he had a rule of a max of three. He hated the conversation. You don’t want to have the conversation. There’s right. Of first refusal concepts where somebody comes in, but that’s. And non-ideal to me

Chris Dreyer

arch rival concepts

Seth Price

that’s the one I like, I don’t want to be working on for an arch rival meaning. If this is your arch rival I get that as a law firm owner. I don’t want that.First there’s is there enough budget to justify something like that? That’s the first question some people are saying, even with maximum budgets, should that be there? I think the new normal is going to be first. The dollar figure for exclusivity is going to change dramatically. People are ahead of the curve on me in this we’re probably later to the game where in order to justify it because. In one sense. It doesn’t matter you know what you don’t want as a scorpion site situation, where 20 people are fighting in the market on an auction. There’s an actual conflict of interest there, This is what this local thing has done is that there are now. 20 sub markets to our market we are right now at a crux that we are seeing a move from, when you and I may have started our company where we’re like, yes, you’re our guy in this market. It’s no longer as clear as it was. And that all of that’s going to be revisited as the market changes, if the other top players aren’t offering it, you’re more emboldened to hold firm and say, look, this is nonsense versus, like you want somebody like you get this, right? Oh, I want exclusivity for a nominal amount of money and two things. It doesn’t make economic sense for your own company. But it doesn’t really affect them. It’s not going to make a difference. It’s in the head. You don’t want somebody that you’re not loyal to them, that you’re with their enemy. But what I’m starting to see more and more is okay. You want exclusivity? There’s a guy out there offering it. Good luck with that And so as the top players are saying, it’s too complicated because it’s not it lawyers want more and more just like we’re talking about for ourselves, different things that we’ve done for our own companies. I’ve moved a company out of a law firm. Lawyers are like, I’m in South Dakota, but it’s really cold here. I’m going to put an LA office. And so you’re seeing rent and because of how easy it is with digital to just put a, literally a pin on the map, you’re seeing all sorts of crazy permutations.
And the last thing I want to do is do something that’s wrong. By somebody. So yes, the hot topic of the day, I think it’s changing on a bunch. Most of those back to the point you made before, because it wasn’t like here’s $8,000 and we’re going to do really well here. It’s now here’s $8,000. Let’s make sure we’re building the asset. It’s there. The ROI is there, but you’re not crushing the market at $8,000, you want to own a market fine. For what own a market means has changed dramatically. Now, if it’s even possible,

Chris Dreyer

you’re dead on you’re dead on everything that I’m seeing as well first of all, we don’t want to restrict our client’s ability to grow. So there’s a concept of that, right? So we don’t want to restrict them. The other thing is if you’re going to pay. That additional amount. Why not just put it in production instead of just this vanity fear number, if an agency charges, let’s say $5,000 a month just for exclusivity and it’s not dependent to the service you’re paying just for fear. that $5,000 could go into marketing service and generation.

Seth Price

Hopefully it’s not just a buyout.

Chris Dreyer

And radio and TV, they already own. The territory so they can give true exclusivity away because they own the air rights, the distribution capabilities versus, for SEO, you might be restricted to proximity location. How many reviews they have.

Seth Price

I’ll give you one. You’ve had a, you have a flagship client, a good friend of mine who, comes up outside of his market, as you get good you may not just be in your hometown. So are you now violating exclusivity for a client? Because that person’s permeated. And as I mentioned, somebody else puts a pin on the map somewhere. And it’s a client of yours, another market that becomes, we get people calling us screaming. I think that the future is going to be very different than the past on this. And I think a lot of it will be what the market will bear. Cause look it’s capitalism. If there is an economic incentive there, but I think that as our mutual business models have grown and you see how fungible it is, but talk I’ll put on the lawyer hat for this. Part of the reason you get there as a lawyer is you’re a contentious fuck. And you build and you grow and you fight. And so the idea that somebody is fighting with you, I get that as a lawyer. The piece I don’t like about it is as a lawyer stay with me because the moment I’m not with you, you’ll be with somebody else. There was a fear factor and it’s like your secret sauce, your guy you’re working with will now be working against you. And that’s the one dynamic that we were rowing together. It’s great. The question is. Is it abuse? I think it can be abused just like a scorpion, if you get to the point where the number is so high, what does that number? I don’t know. You could get to the point where you can’t do a good job because your interests are diversified, not from a a amount of work point of view, but you could actually get to the point where there’s a three-pack and are you going to be able to get more than three people into do a three-pack if you would not mention this during the podcast, I’d be discussing this with afterward the hot topic of the day. I think we’re in the middle of a flux right

Chris Dreyer

exactly. I would be discussing with the afterwards too. And I would just want to say one other thing just as a warning For the attorneys listening, if an agency freely gives away, exclusivity gives away their opportunity costs freely and loosely. First of all, typically they aren’t providing a service where they retaining their clients. they don’t care about losing the growth. They don’t care about the opportunity cost, they’re going to churn and burn and also an exclusivity agreement should be accompanied by a long-term commitment in my opinion, because if we’re on month to month contracts, there is no exclusivity because you can, you have a 30 day out. So I would just say those are a couple warnings and I would say being transparent and I know Seth feels the same way cause it’s, this is like the hot topic. I don’t really know what the perfect answer here is. I know that there’s an integrity standpoint where you want to do right where they’re your clients and that’s where you can’t do take off. Yeah, 10 and a market and actually provide value in most situations to all 10. So I truthfully ended up being an SEO guy. I don’t know. you want to be in the corner, fighting for somebody that’s why I got in the business. And you don’t want somebody to think that your interests are not aligned, but I’m seeing people making moves and doing interesting stuff that you want to see done.And I think that it’s just, it’s a question of how it’s defined. And again, it comes back to what I’ve always said, which is who are Your top competitors and making sure that we’re not, that you’re not sitting there, but you also want to make sure that if somebody opens a random satellite office, that you’re violating a contract, and that’s what we’re doing. A lot of internal thinking about how do you protect the integrity of the relationship and be fighting alongside somebody while at the same time you, at some point that person may want to do things and you don’t want to limit them because it’s not a TV market. It is much more amorphous. Yeah.

Chris Dreyer

And I liked the, arch rival clause a lot. If you’re in a Florida market and you’re a newer firm, you may not want to put, Morgan and Morgan down as your, arch rival, because they’re truly not your, arch rival were at the level of growth that maybe a smaller firms’ at. It gets a little murky there, this is a really tricky conversation.

Seth Price

I thing you could do which would be really cool – bringing a panel of people to talk it out because you were hearing the same conversation and you’re seeing lawyers do it because they’re looking at things differently themselves. People don’t want to pay for a premium for exclusivity. They want to be able to put every dollar they can to getting ROI. I think that’s the piece that’s making that change where people are like, As long as I’m getting X number of cases, I’m happy. It’s not the, it’s not the rah rah piece. It’s part of the nature of being a lawyer, you know that’s there, but that it’s certainly a balance.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. Seth guys do incredible work over BluShark and Price Benowitz one final question, what’s next for blue shark. What’s next for Price?

Seth Price

I feel very blessed for the law firm to make it through COVID. I did do a lot of, talking about how to build and grow law firms in the last 24 months have been unbelievable, ride as interesting as it had been on the digital side, the law firms have had all sorts of going virtual. So I’m just thankful that we are able to, we’ve created an incredible team. To execute on the work that needs to be done and service the clients day in, day out, for digital it’s, it’s the challenge of staying one step ahead. One year you’re it’s LSA is the next year it’s proximity search, To me, it’s the puzzle of figuring out what is next. What’s going to get that competitive advantage. And then bringing that to market How about yourself? What’s next for ranking?
Chris Dreyer

we’ve always worked with strategic partners for design and really we’re looking at more design just because of how impactful just the user experience can be. Not only from a coding perspective but just to create a perspective too. how a consumer can feel about the experience that they have when they land on a website from a CRO perspective. But.

Seth Price

That are there days when you think as an SEO, the contents really hard and I have a predilection of not wanting content people in house.
Like they could be editors in house, but I didn’t never want writers in house. I’ve had so many incredible. Difficult situations that I’d rather have that person in their own home ecosystem doing their thing and sending us content than actually under a roof. That just again, but as you see that your design, you almost feel like when I was at waiter way back in high school, beginning of college, the expediter where you’re bringing these different pieces together because. As it gets more competitive. You want to make sure that you are bringing the best of each of these different components together. this is something that may not resonate with the audience as much, but inside baseball, when we see some of these. How to scale SEO companies, or how to scale digital companies. There’s a whole world of oh, go find a white label agency to do that work. This is the master of your own domain. You want to be able to do this, but how do you continue to push and grow? it’s a balance between what do you want your own thumbprint on? No different than the law firm with litigation. How much of this litigation is in-house? How much has co-counsel, how much is bringing the outside consultants or things versus having every expertise in-house and I feel like that is the story. I figuring out where do you use. Have the person under your roof and we’re do you bring in outside expertise and when do you eventually say, you know what, it’s great, but I need to have the most control over this. it feels like a very frenetic relationship and partly why we’ve built and scaled our own training program to be able to replicate as much of that as we can, but it’s a constant back and forth where you’re like, That’s great, but can we get something even better? Bring this resource in and it why corporations end up? Yeah. We’ve talked about some stuff where the show acquiring because there’s stuff that you can do when you bring those resources. In-house, that’s better and stronger than when it’s a third party related.

Chris Dreyer

I n the agency space, I see it three ways. So I see it in house FTEs. You have the most control. You hinted on that, but they also take the most effort, right? You gotta train them. You gotta find good talent. You gotta nurture their culture all these times. So you got high country. High maintenance. Then you’ve got freelancers, right? Or subcontractors there’s medium control and medium maintenance. So medium control. And someone else could just go grab your freelancers time and capacity. But media maintenance, because typically you don’t hire a subcontractor or a freelancer that doesn’t know the craft so it’s a little less maintenance because they can hit the ground running. You’re paying for an outsource company that does intake least know how to do intakes. Maybe not as good, or as well as the FTE, it’s less maintenance. And then you have outsource white labels, strategic partners, outsourcing is taboo. But we all do it on a day-to-day basis. We all go to restaurants and eat burgers and go out to dinner and have someone else cook our food. Just because we have a bad experience at a restaurant doesn’t mean that we just stopped going it’s maybe you didn’t read it the right restaurant. Or maybe you had the wrong meal. Strategic partners is the phrase, so you have the lowest control. You’re not going to tell that company how to make their widget.

Seth Price

Maybe they will, I disagree. Sometimes they have been, meaning to me it, it gave you don’t want to be a prick about it, but if you can’t get it, you can’t work with them.

Chris Dreyer

Well, it’s leverage.

Seth Price

Even if you don’t have leverage, you’re like, this is what I can live with. If you can’t deliver it. And that’s where a lot of stuff that’s why we’re both frenetic. It’d be great to have it because the full-time equivalents come with the drama and issues and turnover and this and that versus. truth be told that strategic partners dealing with the same thing, you just don’t see the sausage-making.

Chris Dreyer

hundred percent. So there’s all different dynamics. We do it. We do a mixture of both, so like some car manufacturers don’t do their tires, some do their tires, right? So from ours, we work with strategic partners for content, they supply us licensed attorney editors. They supply us a writer pool 70 plus 1099. Legal. There’s pros and cons each I have a little less control, but in terms of my ability to deliver maybe economies of scale for pricing, there’s some advantages we’ve tried both. That’s where we’re at right now, and we’re always trying to improve. that goes back to the whole, I didn’t explain it as well as I could on vertical integration. If you want to take, backwards, integrated. If you want to bring that in, you have a little bit more control and there’s some advantages, there’s more costs, things like that. Seth. this has been a lot of fun. I would love to get that, for any of the digital marketers experts listening, I would love to have that conversation a nice, heated little negotiated panel on geographic exclusivity. So this look up me and Seth. Seth, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Seth Price

Absolutely. A lot of fun.

Sonya Palmer

There is no one right way to market your firm, but picking a medium that you like and will produce consistently should inform your marketing choices. Looking at SEO as an asset for your business rather than a fixed ROI, will help you build a better marketing strategy. The digital marketing landscape is always evolving. Having someone who lives in breaths, these changes in your corner will keep you ahead of the curve. Especially when it comes to highly debated topics like geographic exclusivity.

Sonya Palmer

I would like to thank Seth Price from BluShark and Price Benowitz for sharing his story with us today. And I hope you gained some valuable insights from this conversation. You’ve been listening to Personal Injury Mastermind I’m Sonya Palmer. If you liked this episode, subscribe to LawHer premiering in March of 2022, a new podcast where I’ll be joined by some of the best and brightest female attorneys, judges, entrepreneurs, and politicians to discuss their unique career paths, tools and lessons learned. Chris, we’ll be back next week with another incredible guest and all the strategies you need to take your personal injury practice to the next level.

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