Conrad Saam’s, Own the Map: Marketing Your Law Firm’s Address

Reviewed by Jerry Lawson

Conrad Saam’s Own the Map: Marketing Your Law Firm’s Address (ABA 2020)  is an intriguing new book that will cause many lawyers to think about marketing in new—and better—ways. Many, especially lawyer marketing service vendors, will find Saam’s ideas controversial.

Saam’s primary thesis is that most lawyers should concentrate appealing to potential clients near the lawyer’s location. He develops this thesis convincingly but many will find his sometimes stunningly useful ideas about other aspects of lawyer marketing, like evaluating marketing efforts, even more valuable.

Mr. Saam has an impressive background in technical and practical aspects of law firm marketing. After a prominent role with Avvo he founded the marketing-for-lawyers business Mockingbird. He authors a blog on marketing topics. With Gyi Tsakalakis, he hosts the lively Lunch Hour Legal Marketing podcast.

Evaluating Your Results

Own the Map is a serious book for serious people. The first signs of this are in Chapter 1, on the subject of evaluating law firm marketing success. It is not just the first chapter, it is the longest, weighing in at 36 pages.

Many SEO vendors would rather ignore the key issue: What are you getting for your money? If you don’t keep score accurately how do you know whether you are winning or losing?

Saam’s emphasis on the bottom line is welcome in a market where many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) vendors pitch the idea that if you pay them enough money they’ll guarantee your firm will be in the first ten results, or (for even more money) will appear first for searches on a search request for a few cherry-picked phrases. This goal is fool’s gold for several reasons, including the phenomenon known as the “long tail.” This refers to the fact that more specific searches, like “attorney for child custody dispute with alcoholic husband,” “nursing home Covid-19 lawyer” or “non hodgkins lymphoma roundup tort liability” constitute the majority of searches.

Saam provides one golden tip: Don’t accept metrics generated by consultants using their favorite measuring sticks. Insist on results generated by the industry standard, Google Analytics, the most reliable and objective  tool available.

The Nitty Gritty on SEO

Chapter 2 addresses the mysteries of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). “Organic search” refers to a search engine’s list of the websites most relevant to a particular search, unaffected by web pages artificially boosted to the top of the listing by advertising. While some of this material is unavoidably technical, Saam’s writing style conveys the ideas in a way even most lawyers without technical expertise will be able to understand and apply to their Internet marketing.

Saam’s analysis of “backlinks” is particularly  valuable. Backlinks are probably the single most important factor Google uses in evaluating website quality. All a firm’s lawyers—not just the consultants you hire—need to understand the significance of backlinks in marketing.

Marketing in Your Own Back Yard

Chapter 3, “Local Search,” deals with Saam’s favorite topic: How lawyers should deal with an environment where geography is destiny.

“Pizza near me.” “Honda repair near me.” “Ethan Allen near me.” Today’s consumers, especially those using smart phones, are used to using searches like “pizza near me.” Lawyers are not insulated from this trend. Searches like “personal injury lawyer near me” are popular. A survey by Search Engine Land showed that 82 percent of smart phone users perform “near me” searches.

Further, even if consumers don’t include the phrase “near me,” increasingly sophisticated search engines like Google can detect the potential client’s location and steer them toward local lawyers. This is particularly important since studies of Google (by far the most popular search engine) show that in 2017 show physical proximity was the most important criterion for nearly half of potential clients looking for lawyers. The number can only have increased since then. You may be the best DWI defense lawyer in your state but not many clients will be willing to drive 200 miles to hire you.

Optimizing Your Online Advertising

Chapter 4 deals with one of the most difficult and important topics: How can lawyers best use online advertising to raise their profile on the Internet? There are a bewildering number of alternatives. Avvo, Google Ads, Yelp, Ad Roll and others all beckon for your advertising dollars. Saam evaluates each and explains how well they suit the legal market. Some of his advice on tactical issues is quite controversial, including:

  • By this time every Internet user knows that once you have searched for a particular topic ads related to that topic will appear when you visit unrelated websites. This practice is known as “remarketing.” It is known to be exceptionally cost-effective in some industries, since it targets consumers who have demonstrated they are interested in a topic. Is “remarketing” effective when it appears in the form of having ads for divorce lawyers follow potential clients who have searched for a divorce lawyer?
  • Bidding on search terms that undercut competing brands. Can and should lawyers take advantage of search engine quirks that can make it tempting to bid on competitors’ brands? For example, Ford can bid to have Ford F-150 advertising appear when a consumer searches for the phrase “ Chevy Silverado.” This raises some tricky issues for lawyers. In Texas the trademark “Texas Hammer of the law” could have significant marketing cloutt. Should competing lawyers purchase the phrase “Texas hammer” so that when potential clients search for it the response “Don’t get nailed” appears and directs potential clients to their own law firm’s website? This slick approach may appeal to aggressive lawyers. Saam provides convincing economic analysis that shows that it is smarter better to bid on the name of your law firm—and the names of every lawyer in your firm.

To his credit, Saam is not afraid to name names: Is Lawyers of Distinction better than Super Lawyers? Is Justia better than Martindale?

Optimizing Your Website

Chapter 5 deals with law firm websites. It explains technical issues like page loading speed, the best way to display your firm’s NAP (name, address and phone number) and mobile responsiveness (making a site look good on mobile phones and tablets as well as PCs) in a way that will make sense to lawyers who lack technical expertise. Again, Saam focuses on practical financial issues. He walks readers through the steps need to decide whether a website upgrade is likely to recoup the necessary investment.

Is Marketing on Social Media Right for You?

Chapter 6 makes the most of its six pages, concisely addressing a hotly debated issue: Does use of social media make sense for lawyers? Saam’s answer is clear: “[I]n general, social media as a direct-to-consumer marketing channel for the legal industry is ineffectual.” He goes on to describe situations where the general rule may not apply and gives practical advice for those lawyers who want to explore the social media option.

The two-page Chapter 7 closes the book with some aspirational exhortations, including: “[N]ever let the marketing tail wag your law firm dog. Put differently, it’s much easier to market an amazing product than an average one.”

Bottom Line

Weighing in at a svelte 121 pages, Own the Map has an unusually high good idea to page ratio. Siskind’s The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet was a bestseller for the ABA. It demonstrated that Internet marketing is not just possible, it is a necessity. I like to think that my book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers, contributed at least a little to lawyer understanding of this topic.

Own the Map is to these books as a Porsche is to a Yugo. It is by far the best current resource on this topic. Any lawyer interested in attracting more and better clients will find this book indispensable.

Own the Map is available from Amazon for $69.95 or direct from the publisher (discount for ABA members).

This review originally appeared at LLRX.com.

Kudos to the Virginia State Bar for their excellent online CLE conference, VSB Techshow 2021.

This series gets better and better every year. This year, organizers Chris Fortier, Sharon Nelson, and John Simek turned Covid 19 lemons into lemonade, taking advantage of increased popularity of online conferencing to bring in many nationally known experts who would never have flown to Richmond. A PDF copy of the program is available.

Missed the live version? You can register online to review the archived video presentations and handouts.

Up to 12 On-Demand CLE credits, including 3 Ethics, are available. This is a bargain at $50.

If you have any questions, please contact Paulette Davidson.

Conrad Saam writes in his new book Own the Map; Marketing Your Law Firm’s Address that “[I]n general, social media as a direct-to-consumer marketing channel for the legal industry is ineffectual.” He explains that this is primarily because social media marketing requires building personal relationships with potential clients. Most lawyers lack the time or skill to accomplish this.

Amy Griggs, a partner in Regan Zambri Long, PLLC, a Washington, DC based firm that is one of the best personal injury law firms in the country, understands the importance of personal relationships and applies this in her excellent LinkedIn feed. RZL Associate Emily Lagan is following in her footsteps.

Unfortunately, Tom Mighell is no longer updating his pioneering legal tech blog, Inter-alia.net . He may be too busy with the excellent Kennedy-Mighell Report, but for whatever reason, his blogosphere voice is missed.  However,  the Inter-alia archives contain lots of useful materials, including last year’s thoughtful  three part series , Getting and Using a Password Manager:

Part 1: Intro to Password Managers

Part 2: Requirements

Part 3: My Recommendations

Password manager software and two factor authentication are probably the most important things most lawyers can do to upgrade their IT security. Mighell’s articles will help any lawyer who has yet to adopt this critical safety feature.

Stephen Terrell’s article in ABA’s Experience magazine has good advice on self-publishing, a topic discussed here previously. An excerpt:

What does it cost to self-publish a book? The surprising answer is not much. To actually publish a book both in print and ebook through Amazon’s KDP Publishing, there’s no up-front cost except for proofs and author copies you order. None.

If you take the quality of your self-published book seriously, there can be costs. You may want to hire a content editor to edit your story or a line editor to review your novel for those pesky grammatical and typographical errors. Costs vary but can range from about $5 per page for proofreading upwards to $20 per page or more for extensive editing.

KDP offers free standard covers, but you may choose to hire a cover designer; that typically ranges from $250–$600.

The author correctly notes that promoting the book is probably the biggest barrier. Some lawyers are in a better position to do this than others. Think about your ability to self-authenticate and self-promote before choosing this option.

I’m pleased to have known Kevin O’Keefe since way back when.

He made his first big splash on the Internet with Prairielaw, an innovative website based on the concept of lawyers networking directly with consumers of legal services. Conventional legal businesses that wanted to co-opt a potentially dangerous competitor bought him out. It was just as effective as trying to stop the tides by yelling at the ocean. The trend to do what Kevin had been doing was just too strong.

Kevin went to work for Lexis-Nexis. They fired him 17 years ago. It was only a bump in the road for him. He went on to found Lexblog, probably the leading websites-for-lawyers business in the country. He has a nice LinkedIn post about resiliency. Here’s a picture of the garage birthplace of Lexblog.

Are you admitted to the Virginia Bar? Or just interested in tech-for-lawyers? There is still time to register for the Virginia State Bar’s Techshow 2021 webinar on Monday, April 26 from 8:30 to 5:15.  Not able to attend the live program on April 26? Register to receive the links for on demand CLE credit after the webinar.

The $50 fee for this webinar program is a bargain. The virtual nature of the conference has made it possible for the organizers to bring in an all-star roster of presenters, including  Debbie Foster, Jim Calloway, Sharon Nelson and Tom Mighell, who will present the ever-popular closing 60 Legal Tech Tips in 60 minutes program.

Note that capacity is limited to 500  and that only 125 seats are left.

Patrick Palace has some good ideas in his ABA Solo magazine article How to Use Bad Reviews to Attract Good Clients (ABA members only). The most important idea is that negative reviews can be a net positive–if you know how to respond. Here’s one specific tip:

Timely responses are even more important for negative reviews. Don’t let a negative review sit without a response. Readers may adopt it if you don’t respond. Your response should be targeted to the readers of the review. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are responding for the sole purpose of answering the reviewer’s challenges. Your response should take the higher ground and give value to all readers. Never suggest that the reviewer is unreasonable or wrong. In fact, give the reviewer full deference and grace. Thank the reviewer for bringing these issues to your attention. Taking the higher ground is always the best method. For example, by answering in a positive manner, you aren’t seen as aggressive, defensive, and angry. By inviting the reviewer to contact you personally to discuss the problems and look for a solution, you show your reasonableness and willingness to hear your client’s problems. Your response tells readers that you are ready and willing to fix their problems. You convey that your clients/customers are not just numbers, that profit is not your only goal, and that customer service is your priority. By answering quickly, you tell everyone that you are responsive and that reviews are important to you. In the end, remember to be empathetic. Be real. Use the review as an opportunity to gain other readers’ trust.

Can you do well by doing good? Hard to argue with opinions expressed by Lexblog founder Kevin O’Keefe in his Facebook feed:
Other than some criminal defense, appellate, immigration and plaintiff’s trial lawyers, I don’t see many lawyers blogging with conviction. The numbers are lower in larger firms.
If you feel comfortable getting out there, the opportunity is certainly there to provide thought provoking opinions and advocate change.
Look at civil rights, pro bono and immigration lawyers advocating for change.
They’re not only making a difference in the law by advocating for change, but they’re making a name for themselves. Though the latter may not have been their goal.
Yes, it’s likely you’ll alienate some people, but expecting everyone to love you forever is foolhardy.
Advocating change, stating an opinion and calling out others can be done in a tasteful fashion. You need not stick a thumb in anyone’s eye.

One point for the practical-minded: Controversy can actually be good marketing. As noted by Conrad Saam in Lunch Hour Marketing at the Legal Talk Network:

I go out of my way to embrace someone from the local black lives matter movement. I sit down with them on video and we have a conversation about what transpired and I put that on my website. I don’t throw that on YouTube, I put that on my website. …

[I]f you have a piece of content that is very raw, very real, very relevant and very newsworthy and frankly, very link worthy for people to link back to your site, I would stoke that like mad. Again, you cannot let SEO dive to everything that you’re doing but that’s the kind of thing that a really, really good SEO agency would be thinking about.