In this episode, Gyi Tsakalakis explains why local marketing matters online (spoiler alert: “[those] earning more than $150,000 per year were more likely to choose an attorney based on an internet search, than via a friend”) and how to do it effectively.
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers earn meaningful attention online because that’s where clients are looking. On Lawyerist and elsewhere, he writes and speaks about legal marketing and technology.
Thanks to Ruby Receptionists and Clio for sponsoring this episode!
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Voiceover: Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. And now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street, and this is episode 130 of The Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today we’re checking in with Gyi Tsakalakis about local search marketing, what it is, and why it may be critical to getting the most desirable clients you’re looking for.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Clio legal practice management software. Clio makes running your law firm easier. Try it for free today at Clio.com. That’s C-L-I-O dot com.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Ruby Receptionists, and its smart, charming receptionists who are perfect for small firms. Visit CallRuby.com/Lawyerist to get a risk-free trial with Ruby.
Sam, in about two weeks from today, on August 8th, you and I are speaking at the Minnesota Solo Small Conference, better known as Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small Law Firms, in the beautiful port city of Duluth, Minnesota, and we’re doing two different sessions related to …
Sam Glover: Is that like five Ss and then an M? Five M?
Aaron Street: “Strategic Solutions for Solo and Small …”
Sam Glover: “For Solo and Small …”
Aaron Street: “… Firms”?
Sam Glover: “… Law”? Yeah.
Aaron Street: Yes. SSSF.
Sam Glover: All right, cool.
Aaron Street: Yeah. Totally. We’re doing two sessions, both of which are related to law firm websites and online marketing for lawyers. I’m really excited for both of them. If you’re in town, we’d love to see you, but I thought the topic of those presentations is really related to our replay with Gyi about local search marketing. We talk a fair amount, not necessarily on the podcast, but on Lawyerist, about SEO and online marketing, and we always get lots of questions about using websites for SEO, usually in mysterious terms about wanting to rank number one on Google. The reality is that Google’s rankings and the way they display them keep changing, so that organically ranking for Houston Defense Lawyer doesn’t necessarily even get you at the top of the page anymore, because those organic search results are buried by ads. They are buried by YouTube video embeds, and they’re also more and more frequently being buried by local search results where a map displays with a listing of local businesses according to your keywords, next to a map.
Sam Glover: On the valid assumption that you probably are looking for something nearby for a lot of categories of [crosstalk 00:02:43].
Aaron Street: Right. If you’re typing in “Houston defense lawyer,” Google now recognizes that you’re looking for something locally in Houston, and so wants to help you navigate there and get office open hours, and all of the different things that local listings provide, user reviews, et cetera.
Sam Glover: Or if you’re in Houston, and you just type “divorce lawyer,” it’s still going to deliver you all the stuff.
Aaron Street: It may. It may also do that too, yeah, because their algorithm is getting smarter and smarter. That is all to say that SEO is kind of always constantly adapting and changing, and right now especially, local search optimization is becoming more and more important, as opposed to kind of generic national search optimization. Our conversation with Gyi today is very much about that, both about specifically how to optimize your website and your search profile for Google’s new local search algorithms, but also kind of how to build your practice and manage your reputation to help accentuate those ratings with things like community involvement and local press coverage, and things like that.
Sam Glover: For what it’s worth, here’s my pitch for listening to this again, even if you haven’t, and here’s why it’s still relevant. We’re going to kick off, and Gyi’s going to mention a survey that found that people who earn more than $150,000 a year are more likely to get a referral from an internet search than they are from a friend or family member or word of mouth, which is directly contrary to what you might intuitively think, and I think what a lot of lawyers believe. Your highest earning potential clients might actually be the ones most likely to find you by using an internet search.
Aaron Street: We hope today’s episode is really practical and useful for you.
Sam Glover: Yeah. Here, listen in.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Hi. I’m Gyi Tsakalakis, and I help lawyers get clients from the internet, aka legal marketing.
Sam Glover: I know legal marketing is kind of a loaded term, which is why you throw it that way, but I feel like I need to point out that Gyi is an excellent legal marketer and a knowledgeable and ethical marketer who’s kind of my font of all things legal marketing wisdom, which is why you’re on the podcast today.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Very kind of you to say. I appreciate that.
Sam Glover: Well, good. You have been a real source of knowledge for us over the years, and what I want to talk to you today is something that has just been off of my radar when it comes to legal marketing. Like, I feel like I kind of get my head around search engine optimization, and networking, and online and offline, and social media. I feel like I’ve got the pulse on it, but you’ve been sort of buzzing in my ear about local marketing for years, and I’ve just been sort of ignoring you. I wanted you to give us sort of a primer about what local marketing is, and how to do it. Maybe you could just start out by telling me and our listeners, what are we even talking about? What is local marketing?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Sure. I think we can even go back one more step for context, and it really goes to talking to your audience, and who your audience is. If so, there’s going to be a couple presumptions we’re going to make as we have this conversation, and the first is, is that you serve clients in a local area, right? Which I know a lot of lawyers do, but there are obviously lawyers that maybe local marketing doesn’t make sense for. You know, maybe they have a national or global practice. I think it’s important to start with, these are for consumer-facing firms in local areas, and it’s really … I think another, hopefully, takeaway from this as we even get through some of the specific nuts and bolts, is that this isn’t really a new thing. You know, local marketing, legal marketing has been going on for a long time, but there are some differences in the tools at our disposal that I think we should walk through, but it’s medium-agnostic. There are online things you can do. There are offline things you can do, and what we’re really seeing now is that there’s a blur between the online and offline, and I think that’s important for us to talk about.
Sam Glover: Are we kind of talking about … When everybody started trying to market online, one of the things that started happening, and this happened to me a lot, because I wrote a blog about consumer law, is I would get inquiries from all around the country, and my understanding is that some lawyers who that started happening to started trying to represent lawyers all around the country, which caused some ethical problems. But I guess it sounds like what’s happening now is, we’re getting better at targeting our online marketing to just the people that we’re actually able and competent to represent.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. I think that’s a part of it. Some of it has happened sort of independently of what the lawyers have actually been doing, and more having to do with how Google’s getting smarter, and when we talk about specifically in local search, that’s definitely played a big role, that Google has evolved to give much more localized and personalized results than they used to, and that’s caused the effect of people in your local area being able to find local lawyers, as opposed to if you wrote about a consumer law post and somebody on the other side of the country finds it, now you’re going to see Google serving results for consumer lawyers that are in the neighborhood, around the corner.
You know, one of the big things, too, that Google’s even been talking a lot about is, the way that people search is evolving as well. As search becomes more familiar to everybody, instead of searching for “consumer lawyer,” you’re searching for “consumer lawyer near me,” or, “consumer lawyer in my city,” or neighborhood, or zip code.
Sam Glover: Because logically, and Google obviously knows this, for many, many things that you might search for, you’re going to be more interested in results that are within your city or state. Plus, Google knows where you are most of the time.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. That’s been a huge change, too, with mobile phone adoption. The targeting is better, the search engine is smarter. They’re using more signals based on your behavior, what you’re interested in, how your click patterns … A bunch of other fancy signals that I think we don’t need to hyper focus on, but just I think making the point that, especially in terms of search, Google’s getting better at delivering results that are localized for queries that are relevant to a local search.
Sam Glover: Is sort of the offline version of this, sort of like advertising in your neighborhood bulletin?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly. I think this is a good segue to this idea of the blurring of the lines, because when you do things in your local community, like participate in local charities, or you take a leadership position in a local organization or association, more and more of those organizations, associations, and the people connected with those things are online. What happens is, is that those local signals start to appear online in a way that Google can use them to better inform that, “Hey, this person is relevant. This law firm is relevant to this local area.” Those local mentions, those local links help to serve you up in those localized search results. But again, I know we’re going to talk about search, but I think it’s important to recognize that it’s these traditional relationship development activities that now are coming online, and there’s an impact on search even for that.
Sam Glover: Well, and this is maybe a good point for us to state one of the things that should be obvious now but often isn’t, that there really is no such thing as online marketing anymore, because it moves back and forth.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. You and I have discussed that in the past, and I would say I think it’s moving in your direction. It’s moving in the direction of, “Marketing is marketing. It’s not online or offline, or SEO.” But I think it’s worth noting that there are some things to think about that are not as intuitive as traditional marketing, right?
Sam Glover: Oh, totally.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Maybe 20 years from now, it might be as second hand as all the things we talk about with traditional marketing, but the easiest example of that I always bring up, especially in searches, if you don’t know some basic HTML, if you don’t know things about, like, robots files, you can do all the right things and not appear in a single search result because of some technical problem.
Sam Glover: Right, and those don’t have offline analogs, really.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly.
Sam Glover: My point is more about the, your potential clients may hear about you from a friend and then Google you, or …
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh, right. I mean, that is absolutely, those lines are blurred.
Sam Glover: You can’t just do online marketing. That’s not an actual thing that anybody is capable of doing, because it’s going to go offline whether you want to or not, and you can’t pretend like online marketing doesn’t exist, because your offline marketing is going to go online whether you want to or not.
Gyi Tsakalakis: 100%. I think that is a big thing. That’s one of the bullet points that I’ve been trying to bring up a lot, and I’m glad you said it that way, because that’s really the gist of all of this, is that no matter how somebody hears about you, whether it’s someone that you know from your family, or friends, or classmates, all the traditional relationships that we have, those people and the people that they’re referring to you are now also online. On top of that, there’s an expectation that continues to grow of people being able to find out information about you. That’s one of the things that’s difficult for a lot of lawyers to accept, because in one vein you say, “Look, Facebook and social media are a waste of time, and kids’ toys.” Except that when a word of mouth referral that you know tries to look you up online and sees whatever they see, that’s playing some role in their impression of you. Sometimes what they find … If they can’t find anything, you know, does that mean they’re not going to call you? Not necessarily, but sometimes they’re going to find things that might prevent them from even contacting you.
That’s the type of thing where I think lawyers have a … They’re starting to warm up to, but they’ve been really resistant to this idea that their clients, the potential clients they want aren’t online. Of course, I’m sure there are … There are still, what, 25% or so of people, something like that, that don’t use the internet regularly or whatever. But more and more, the majority of people are going online, so it’s not this classic necessarily …
Sam Glover: Let’s talk about some of the statistics, then. Who are we talking about that are the … What is the pool of potential clients we can get here? Because that’s one of the things that I often see lawyers scoff about, is, you know, “Only bad clients are online. My clients aren’t online.” Or, “They’re not looking for a lawyer online,” at least. Who are we talking about? Who is actually looking for a lawyer, and who cares about whether or not they’re local?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, you know, it kind of depends on how we qualify how they’re looking. Let’s maybe directly answer you. When you’re talking about the people that are looking for you, so if you have a mutual friend, or you have a family member, or somebody at work. You have all these traditional relationships. There’s a really good chance that those people are going to look you up online.
Sam Glover: Meaning they may get a personal referral first, but then they’re going to look you up online?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly. It’s becoming more of the case that even if you’re … You know, “Hey, do you know somebody that handles this kind of case?” “Yeah. You’ve got to talk to so-and-so.” Even when they give you their phone number, they’re going to search the person’s name online. Things like … I think it dovetails into some of this local stuff, but certainly the relationship word-of-mouth, the traditional client development stuff, more and more people are going online. I think lawyers that are arguing that people don’t go to look up information about them online really are missing the boat.
If you’re one of those lawyers that says, “Look, I’m a criminal defense lawyer, and nobody that is searching for ‘criminal defense lawyer’ in Google is going to be … Nine out of 10 of those people aren’t going to be good clients for me.” I won’t dispute that. People have different practices. If you’re very selective about the clients you take, very selective about the types of cases you take, the internet is the fire hose of the public. It’s the Yellow Pages, if you’re talking about like the local business look ups. For a lot of lawyers, that’s not the right audience for them to be in front of, but I think that those same lawyers are going to be very hard-pressed to argue that the people that are looking for them, whether it’s by a mutual connection, or offline, word of mouth stuff, that they’re not looking for something. I would suggest that the overwhelming majority of people are using the internet in some way to look up some kind of information about you.
Sam Glover: We have some statistics, though, right? On what percentage of people are starting with personal referrals, versus those who are starting at Google, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. Moses and Ruth, a little nod to them, they, with the help of Mike Blumenthal, they have been putting out … I think they put it, this is the second one they put out. But they put out these surveys, Google Consumer Surveys, which by the way, if you’re ever looking to do survey stuff, Google Consumer Surveys is an affordable way to do that. But, yeah. 38% of the people, when they were asked, “How did you find a lawyer that your hired?” It was an open-ended question. I think he qualified it, “Have you hired a lawyer in the last six months?” These are people that recently hired a lawyer. How did they find a lawyer? When you group these referral-slash-family friend answers together, 38% are still going through someone they know. That’s the start of their journeys, but I think it’s also important to note that even those people that are going through family, friend, work referral, those people are also still likely to look you up online.
Sam Glover: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Those aren’t even people that originated their search on the internet, but they’re still using it. And then you’ve got 15% that are originating their search through Google. Again, this is one survey, so take it for what it’s worth, but at a minimum, 15% of the people in this survey were saying that they used the internet as their first look. You’re going to find that. Why would someone do that? Well, one, many people that don’t know lawyers, they don’t have the professional network, they don’t have a lot of people they can turn to for a referral, or they’re people that are dealing with legal issues that maybe they don’t want to get a referral, because they don’t want their friends to know they’re dealing with a specific legal issue. You’ve got that kind of aspect that speaks to that, too.
Again, if you combine those two things, you’re over half of the people, in my opinion, are going to be in some way touching the internet in terms of actually vetting their lawyer. [crosstalk 00:18:54].
Sam Glover: In your slides on local marketing that you did at the Clio conference, you had a really interesting quote that I thought was worth pointing out, that those who responded, of those who responded, those earning more than $150,000 per year were more likely to choose an attorney based on a web search than on a friend.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Sam Glover: Which I thought was interesting. That’s kind of a direct answer to people who say “good clients,” or, “The clients I want aren’t online.” I think clients making six figures are the clients most people want.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. I think that is a much more direct way of answering your question than I answered. However, I think it’s important that we note that … This is where I think there’s a lot of disconnect. Those high net worth individuals that are using the internet, the key is how they’re using it, because what are they doing? They’re researching their legal issue. They’re researching what are maybe some of the credentials that they’re … Whether it’s leadership positions they’ve taken, or things they’ve said in the media. The more sophisticated consumer is going to do more research, right?
Sam Glover: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s the thing. What happens is, everyone hears “internet” and they hear “Google search for X, Y.” You know, “Practice area, city, lawyer.”
Sam Glover: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: But that’s not where the real advantage and the real power of the internet comes in. It comes in from being able to, I always say, marshal the evidence of your reputation, or marshal the evidence of your knowledge through the internet, so make that information easy for people to find, so that they can, when they do that research, they find that you’re clearly the person who is the subject matter expert on their particular need.
Sam Glover: The bottom line when it comes to ethics is that when you’re marketing to people locally, it’s the same as when you’re marketing to anyone. But what are some of the things that might come up that people aren’t really paying attention to when it comes to local marketing?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Obviously … Well, hopefully it’s obvious. One of the things that people expect to be able to find out about you is what other people think about you. Whether that’s clients, or colleagues, or somebody else that they know, like, trust, or respect. One of the mistakes or traps that lawyers walk into is, one, violating their state’s rules on encouraging client testimonials, or being part of the client testimonial process. In fact, some states, and don’t get me started on the ethics rules, but the rules are the rules. Some states are trying to hold lawyers accountable for things that their clients write independently when they have the ability to suppress them.
Sam Glover: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Then there is responding to a review, which brings in all sorts of client confidences and that kind of thing. And of course, depending on what you’re doing, there are the issues of solicitation, that the men and women who are using Twitter to put dollar signs and “Call me to collect your cash,” there’s certainly some ethics issues there. But the irony is, is that that kind of stuff, it doesn’t work that well. It just kind of makes you look silly. You get poked fun of by other lawyers. Has there ever been a case that someone has attracted a client that has been a profitable client for that firm, that’s done that kind of thing? I’m sure there probably has been, but generally speaking, that stuff is the wrong way to go. It’s towing the line of a lot of ethics things.
The biggest one that always comes up is the client testimonial stuff, and then you get into like the adjective, superlative stuff where it’s, you know, “I’m the best lawyer,” and that kind of stuff.
Sam Glover: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: But here’s the thing. Especially if you’re looking for the sophisticated legal consumer who’s of high net worth, those types of things are more likely to turn off that client than to persuade them to call you.
Sam Glover: Is there a good rule of thumb to use? I mean, it feels like the rule of thumb is just, “Don’t be misleading and don’t do things that are really pushy, excessively pushy.” That should get you past most of the ethics problems and most of the “being a jerk that turns off potential clients” problems.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think those are good rules of thumb. I always like to add in that you’ve got to remember that, and this is something that I even wrote about this in Attorney at Work, but one of the big things that’s happening in general in online communication usage is this idea of “dark social.” That’s like messaging apps, Facebook messenger. There’s a lot of issues that this raises, but one of the biggest ones is, is it gives people the sense that they have privacy, right? Even the people that are … Some people who are really clueless don’t even … They type something on Facebook, and in the context of they don’t realize that the whole world can see it. But these messenger apps give you the feeling that it’s private, but especially when you’re talking about lawyers’ communications, it’s better to always assume that it’s public and it’s not going away, even when you’re on these dark social messenger apps, in my opinion. That’s the kind of thing where it’s … You know, and I think that …
Sam Glover: You should always, no matter what, you should always assume that what you’re doing online is permanent, and that it could become public.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think that’s a good rule of thumb.
Sam Glover: That’s what we’ll try to teach my kids when I start allowing them to get online.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s right. Start them off slowly. Then I think the other thing, though, just to take away from this, and this is tangentially related to the ethics stuff, but it’s this idea that advertising, broadcasting, promotional stuff is not the best way to go, even from an effectiveness standpoint. What I like to tell people is, if you’re doing things online that are just social, or you’re sharing an article, or you are sharing some of the good things you’re doing in the community and charity stuff, that stuff isn’t … Again, this is just one person’s opinion, but that’s not communications about a lawyer’s services. Guess what? That’s the stuff people actually want to see, so now you’ve completely avoided the ethics stuff. Maybe if you’re completely fabricating that you work at a charity, that might violate the ethics stuff, but if you’re actually out there in the community doing stuff, you’re not talking about the services, you’re sharing that stuff on Facebook, you’re sharing, “Hey, we had a new hire. We’d like to introduce so-and-so.” People like that. The people that the new hire are connected with, they’re like, “Hey, congrats on the new job.” It’s building awareness. You’re getting new people in your purview, but it’s all this traditional networking stuff. You’re just doing it now on online platforms, and it works the best, and you don’t have to worry about ethics as much.
Sam Glover: Right. It’s just, don’t be a jerk and don’t be slimy and that kind of stuff.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, some people, there are plenty of jerks online that seem to be doing just fine.
Sam Glover: Seem. I hope it’s just seeming to be doing fine, but you never know.
Okay. From a potential client perspective, how is it that I want to pop into their consciousness, whether it’s online or offline? How am I trying to intersect them? There’s this buzzword that showed up on your slides that I think I have an idea what it is, but I’m not sure. I think it’s kind of what local is all about, which is this idea of “micro-moments.” Is that right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. Let’s talk about that for a second. That’s a term that Google uses. In fact, if you search “micro-moments,” Google has a whole section on Think With Google about micro-moments, but really at the center of what’s happened is this mobile revolution. People have smartphones in their pockets, and so what’s happened is, it’s fractured the consumer journey for a lot of different stuff. When we say that, in the past, in the traditional marketing 101 classes, your potential clients move through this hiring funnel, right? Maybe they get exposed to a message. They’re looking for something, to get exposed to a message. They have a consideration set, and then they make a decision about hiring.
That was kind of the model, but now, because we have access to all this information, we’ve got these supercomputers in our pockets, it’s all fractured. This goes to the attention problems that people have and all that kind of thing, but they might start their journey on … I’ll even expand this beyond just mobile devices, but they might be dealing with something in their personal life. They might see an ad on TV, which might drive them to do a search on their phone, which might make them sign up for some kind of email, which might make them think about asking a question of a friend on Facebook. It’s all of these little touchpoints now that form this tapestry of their consumer journey, and it’s a big change.
From the perspective of a law firm, that’s why I think it’s so important not to be so single-minded that, you know … People, “All my best business comes from word of mouth referrals, and people are just going to call my phone, and leave me a voice message. I’ll call them back and decide whether they’re a good client for me.” That’s just not how it … You know, does it work like that? Sure. Sometimes, but most people now, they have this expectation that they can find information about you online, that they can find information about you from social networks, so people that you’re mutually connected to, and that’s all part of this validating process that motivates people to get answers to their questions, even when they’re further down the stages. Sorry I’m kind of rambling here, but …
Sam Glover: No, that’s all right. I’m interested in the way it all sort of intersects and becomes sort of a morass of engagement, and it sounds like part of it is, like think of yourself as Wikipedia. Somebody might discover an article for the first time by searching for it, or they might already know where it is and come to you for more information than they currently have to check on something.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Much better said than I was saying it, but that’s exactly right. So many lawyers forget that a lot of people who are going to be their potential clients are at a stage where they don’t even realize they might need to talk to a lawyer. If you can help them through that journey before they’re even at the point where they’re like, “I need to hire a lawyer.” If it’s, “I need to get an answer about this issue I’m dealing with in my life, and oh, this law firm, or this lawyer has some great information on that.” Or this person that I know points me in the direction of this lawyer who has some great information about that online, that to me is like the big … One of the big missing pieces that I think too many lawyers are ignoring in terms of what the internet’s really done to that consumer journey.
Sam Glover: We’re going to take a two-minute break for a message from our sponsor, and when we come back, we will talk about how to put yourself in the position to be on the other side of those micro-moments.
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Okay. Let’s get back to it. Before we took a break for our sponsors, we were talking about micro-moments and how people engage with search, and internet, and how they may come into contact with you probably through some sort of a local relationship. Gyi, how do we actually make sure that we are on the other side of that engagement? How do we make sure that that micro-moment is between us and a potential client?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. If all this kind of thing is brand new to you, I say start just brainstorming. But it starts with thinking locally in real life. If you survey local market, one is identifying some of the ways that people … There’s a huge overlooked opportunity, but people don’t realize that people use different languages in different parts of the country. Getting to know how those people use different languages to describe the issues they’re dealing with that are relevant to your practice, what the organizations are at a very local level, that you can go out and meet people and network, and maybe do seminar work with them. All that real-life local stuff, and take in consideration some of the things that you, as a lawyer, might be passionate about. We all have causes that we, for one reason or another, are extremely passionate about. Find those places in real life, and then start saying, “How can I apply this to the web and to social networks, and to the people that I know in real life online?”
Some of the things we’ve talked about are localizing your website. You know, putting local content on your website. A lot of lawyers have done somewhat creative things with identifying local dangerous intersections. That’s something that a lot of people are impacted by. It’s local language. It’s places that people are familiar with, so that’s kind of what we mean there, is to actually put local content, local news stuff that you have something to write about on your website.
Sam Glover: It’s sort of the non-spammy, clickbaity version of, “You’ll never believe these five new traffic laws in Minneapolis, Minnesota.”
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly.
Sam Glover: But it’s actually, be interesting to your community, rather than trying to do the same frequently asked questions that every other bankruptcy lawyer in the country is doing.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly, and it’s what can you offer? Again, even if you’re a young lawyer, you don’t have the experience, you’re not writing the treatise on auto accident law in your state, you can have an opinion, and you can frame that in a way that some people might agree with you. And guess what? Some people might disagree with you, and that’s okay too. Part of this whole process is having these conversations online, and again, of course there are consequences for standing for something, but I’d rather stand for something than stand for nothing and just be regurgitating these five traffic law tips.
The real point from a search perspective is, like you said, keep it interesting, make it local. Obviously you need some of the basics with where you put HTML elements, and make sure that your pages are getting indexed in local search. Another big piece of this is this idea of the consistency of your business listings, which is a whole … I always use Moz, because they’ve got great information there, but Moz Local has this whole learning center that David Mihm has put together. Really great stuff. If you want to get into the weeds of like, local, organic search marketing, which I don’t know if that’s really the direction we want to go today, that’s a great resource to learn more about that. Of course, you can always pay for local search traffic. One of the things that …
Sam Glover: Okay. That’s a whole new can of worms for some people. When should you consider paying instead of trying to build it yourself?
Gyi Tsakalakis: As I said, it’s a really hard question to answer, but here are some of my guidelines. Number one is, start back with identifying your target audience. Are you trying to help people with a specific legal problem in a specific area that they’re likely to go and do a business lookup search for your firm, and are those likely to be your clients? Again, if you are a … Let’s use divorce attorney, and you’re doing only high net worth divorces, you don’t have a system for efficiently and effectively screening the droves of people that are searching for “divorce lawyer,” paying for local search marketing might not be the best thing for you. However, if you are … Whether you want to call it a volume-based practice or you have systems in place to quickly and efficiently identify whether or not someone’s likely to be a good audience for you, the next step is to say, “What is the business component of this? How much money can I spend to acquire a client, on average, that it still makes sense for my firm?”
Because this is what happens. People are like, “Oh, yeah. I gotta be online. I gotta be on AdWords. I’m going to bid on ‘divorce lawyer.'” They don’t even set a location. It’s like, “US divorce lawyer.” Broad match. Then they spend thousands of dollars, and they’re like, “Oh, AdWords doesn’t work.” And it’s like, “Well, no, you need to say, ‘How much is the cost per click?'” If you need to … Say your average divorce client- I’m making numbers up because I don’t have a lot of experience in divorce- but let’s say it’s a $4,000 flat rate divorce. I don’t even know if that’s realistic, but I would say that if you can generate potential clients for, you know, X percent of that, of $4,000, that makes sense for your business, then AdWords might make sense for you, and then you can work backwards and say how much you’re willing to pay for a click, and what geography you might say. You know, “Am I going to do this on a specific zip code, or city, or county, or am I going to do it statewide?” But that’s kind of the analysis you have to go through to decide whether it’s going to be the right thing for you. It’s not as easy as saying, I need to be in AdWords. I need to be in Google. I need to be on Facebook.”
Sam Glover: You need to be able to do a little bit of math.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You’ve got to do some math. You’ve got to do some research. You’ve got to get some sense of who your target audience is. This is another thing, too. The best resource here, and I think this is good advice in general, in terms of just improving your practice in all sorts of ways. Listen to what your clients are saying. “Hey, how did you find us? How did you perform a search, if you came in through the search?” Asking those questions, and on top of asking questions about, “How do you feel about our service? How we can improve our service?” You know, “My communication process.” You know, “Would you be willing to leave a review?” All that kind of stuff. But they’re the people that, if you’ve got a client who fits your target audience, they’re sitting right there. Ask them. They’re a wealth of knowledge.
Sam Glover: If you were going to give somebody a checklist of, like, how to get your house in order for local marketing, as opposed to either not doing enough marketing at all or just blasting it out to whoever, what would be the checklist that you would give somebody? Like, “Here are the things you need to pay attention to.”
Gyi Tsakalakis: All right. Great. Again, I’m going to give some caveats here. We’re assuming we’re targeting an audience that’s using the internet to find information and to actually find lawyers on a local level. Number one is, you’ve got to localize your website. You’ve got to have local content up there that gets indexed, that’s going to … Even if it’s long-tail searches, that people are going to get exposure to your website, content that they want to share, whether it’s a blog post, or some kind of article, or a study, or a picture, whatever it is. Localize your website. Number two is, you’ve got to be, for search, you’ve got to use … Right now it’s called “Google My Business.” But Google Plus Local, Local.
Sam Glover: It’s had a lot of names, hasn’t it?
Gyi Tsakalakis: They’re constantly changing it, and I think they’re finally … You know, who am I to speak for Google? But it seems like they’re kind of, they’re finally understanding the importance of delivering localized business results to their users, and so they’ve really made this push towards, this last year, these local results. Three packs have become much more prominent in search for a variety of different searches. Google My Business, you can look up Google My Business, get that listing locked down. Make sure you follow the … They have guidelines there for what’s permissible and what’s not. You get to have a listing for each physical office location, and for each practitioner, so each lawyer and each office location. But don’t try to game it. Don’t try to use a virtual office, in my opinion. Again, people disagree about this, and of course Google’s not perfect, so spam can still work. But the best advice I can give is, don’t try to game it. Follow the guidelines. Do it for each of your offices. When you have happy clients that are like, “How can I say thank you?” “We always encourage happy clients to go to our Google My Business page,” assuming that it’s permissible for you to do that in your state, so check that out.
Then after that, I would say social networking. I’ve talked about this before, too, but Facebook allows four pages. Those pages can be reviewed by clients and colleagues. Those pages will show up prominently in search results, and so when you’re talking about those searches on your name, the more places that you can say, “Hey, my Google My Business profile page has happy people talking about me. My Facebook page has happy people saying, ‘You’re the best.'” Your Yelp listing has people saying, “You’re the best.” And Yelp and Google My Business are extremely localized. Avo. Same thing. Extremely localized. I know a lot of lawyers don’t like the Avo scoring, but Avo is … They’re very prominent for most … If you look up your name online, and you’re a lawyer, it’s very likely your Avo profile … I mean, my Avo profile shows up, and I’m not very active there, but I’m still a member of the Michigan Bar, so they pull that information in.
Those are kind of the quick checkpoints.
Short version: Website, Google My Business, the local listings that show up for searches for your name, like Yelp, Avo, Facebook, and then I would say beyond that, you can start getting into some of the paid advertising stuff, but that should not be your first thing. In fact, if you’re going to go paid, you need to spend a lot of time learning about audience targeting, how these platforms work. A lot of them aren’t as intuitive as you might think. It’s not as simple as, in the past, you’ve got a big budget, you put a billboard up. It’s a little bit more complicated than that.
Sam Glover: And you need to have a pretty sophisticated idea of what your ROI needs to be.
Gyi Tsakalakis: [crosstalk 00:44:08].
Sam Glover: Cost per acquisition, all that kind of stuff.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. That might be a good conversation for us another time, but understanding the business metrics of your practice is critically important if you’re going to spend time and money on client development beyond the things that might be intuitive to you. Again, if you’re out there and you’re like most lawyers, and don’t have a lot of time, but you know you need some of these things to buttress the other networking and client development activities you’re doing, a lot of this stuff’s free, so it’s just a matter of kind of connecting the wires.
Sam Glover: It’s a matter of the time, which isn’t entirely free, but yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s the time. That’s true. Then the final thing I would say is, and this could be a whole other conversation too, is working on some kind of email strategy. On one end of the spectrum, that could be as simple as remembering to regularly email your most trusted referral sources. But staying in touch with people via email. Not mass emailing everybody your free consultation messaging, but email is becoming this kind of, the last … I mean, it’s really not. I’d say text probably is, but it’s still a place that a lot of people have their eyeballs on. It’s a protected place to a certain extent. Obviously we all get a lot of spam emails, but it’s a place that I would say in the future, too, is going to continue to be important. I don’t want to get too technical, but there’s going to be a shift to email being the identifier for targeting. Right now, the cookie is the main thing, but I can see an evolution towards email. You’re talking about Facebook custom audiences, Google’s going to allow you to do custom audiences. Being able to build email lists of people that actually want to get emails from you is a very powerful thing.
Sam Glover: Anything else for the checklist?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I don’t know. I probably went a little bit longer.
Sam Glover: No. That’s all right, though. It’s good to help people get started. I think that’s probably a good thing to end on, so Gyi, thanks so much for being with us again. You are our second returning guest.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Always a pleasure, and thanks for having me.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of The Lawyerist Podcast. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit Lawyerist.com/Podcast, or LegalTalkNetwork.com. You can subscribe via iTunes or anywhere podcasts are found. Both Lawyerist and the Legal Talk Network can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and you can download the free app from Legal Talk Network in Google Play or iTunes.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own, and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said during this podcast is legal advice.