Maria Monroy, host of Tip the Scales and President of LawRank sat with Jennifer Gore live at the Trial Lawyers University Conference. In today’s episode, Maria gets personal about the history of LawRank, a leading SEO agency she started with her husband Mariano. Maria offers a no-BS breakdown of SEO and sets common misconceptions straight. She answers the questions you’ve always had, and a few you might not think to ask. And she breaks down how to use data to build a stronger firm.
- SEO is alive and well. When done correctly. To see a return on your investment, it is not enough to simply rank on the first page of Google. In addition to organic, local SEO is critical to a firm’s success.
- Content is still king. Think like Google to rank higher. Nearly all searches can be distilled to either commercial or informational intent searches. Most firms spend top dollar to rank in commercial searches. Think “slip and fall” or “car accident attorney”. But Google wants to select sites that best answer users’ questions. Google wants informational content. Because most searches are informational in nature. Good content pleases google and its users.
- SEO takes time. Like building credit, Google needs to know that a site and its content are credible. To gain trust, become the authority in your market with great content that alleviates potential clients pain points.
Jennifer Gore (00:05):
So what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about SEO?
Maria Monroy (00:10):
That it doesn’t work.
Jennifer Gore (00:11):
I’m going to say that’s a myth, but why do you think that is?
Maria Monroy (00:15):
Firms are telling them it doesn’t work either because they’re lying or because it’s never worked for them, but because they haven’t ranked.
Jennifer Gore (00:22):
How I viewed SEO was just PPC, you’re renting space, SEO, you’re putting your stake in the ground and you’re owning real estate on Google. So a lot of people that I talk to, we look at it as like, “This is a long-term investment. Life is too short to work with people you hate.”
Maria Monroy (00:40):
Yeah. Or that I don’t even like.
Jennifer Gore (00:42):
I think the more curious you are as a business owner, you get better information out of your vendors.
Maria Monroy (00:48):
Jennifer Gore (00:49):
Because the vendors that know their shit are completely willing to answer your questions.
Maria Monroy (00:54):
You’re going to have somebody that gives you the answer that you want to hear.
Jennifer Gore (00:58):
Maria Monroy (00:59):
These are the questions that you really need to be asking. I’m just so grateful that my role gets to evolve and that at this point it’s like, “Okay, well, I can do anything.”
In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything, tear things apart, break them down. But the qualities that make lawyers great are some of the worst for running a business. At every stage of growth, running a business and practicing law can feel overwhelming. And what happens when you try to add life and family to the mix? It can feel nearly impossible. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m Maria Monroy, co-founder and president of LawRank, a leading SEO agency for ambitious law firms because success lies in the balance of life and law. We’re here to help you tip the scales.
It’s that time of the year where everyone seems to be sick, including myself so I apologize for my voice. I sat down with the owner of Atlanta Law Group, Jennifer Gore. You may remember her from a recent episode. Her law firm is a rocket ship growing 7200% since opening just under a decade ago. She is amazing and I suggest you listen to her interview after this. You can find the link in the show notes. On today’s episode, we’re switching things up. This time she is interviewing me. We sat down live at the Trial Lawyers University conference. Grab a drink and join us on the couch. We give you the no BS breakdown of SEO and set the common misconceptions straight. We answer the questions you’ve always had and we give you insight on how to think about data. Clearly I lost the bet and this is why this is happening.
Jennifer Gore (03:00):
I think the audience really wants to know a little bit more about Maria.
Maria Monroy (03:04):
I think you know some secrets of mine.
Jennifer Gore (03:06):
Well, we won’t get into all of those, but when you’re out at all the conferences, everyone always sees you. People kind of associate you to the face of LawRank but tell us kind of about how LawRank came to be and how your role evolved.
Maria Monroy (03:25):
So I didn’t start LawRank, Mariano did, my husband and it was a total accident. He was in law school at the time and it was a second career for him. He was late thirties and his brother who went to law school at the standard age had left the DA’s office and was going to start his private practice and said to my husband, “Hey, you’re techy. Figure out how to get a website up and I’ll pay you.” And my husband said, “Okay.” So he did that, he got his website up, and he became fascinated by this idea of how does Google determine who’s going to show up. If you Google criminal defense lawyer, how does Google choose? And I’m never going to forget. We were in New York City, it was the summer, so he had time off. We were with our first child who was nine months at the time, and I wanted to go be in the city.
And he was like, “You don’t understand. He’s on the top of the second page.” I’m like, “I don’t even know what that means.” He wasn’t being paid for this at that point in time, and I don’t even know that he knew that this was the vision so I was kind of bitchy about it and I was like, “This is ridiculous. You’re not even being paid. Can we go?” And he still holds it against me to this day. So his brother got a case from the top of the second page, which is not normal and doesn’t really happen anymore, but that really motivated him to get him to the top. And then his brother became an official client and then other law firms started reaching out to us. And we just kind of looked at each other one day and we’re like, “We should just start an actual business.” And I started working in it right away. Initially I did the accounting for two years, literally through QuickBooks. I had taken accounting in college.
Jennifer Gore (05:06):
So you were behind the scenes for a while. You weren’t out doing what you do now?
Maria Monroy (05:11):
No, and I was actually very limited in what I did because at that time, I was pregnant with my second child and once the second child came into the picture, I completely stepped out for a year and a half. And really the first four or five years of LawRank, I did very, very, very little. And we did no marketing.
Jennifer Gore (05:33):
Maria Monroy (05:34):
No marketing. It was purely word of mouth and referrals. And we grew slowly at that point. But Mariano really focused on processes during that time.
Jennifer Gore (05:44):
You always said he’s very technically driven and the technical side is where a lot of his genius is, right?
Maria Monroy (05:51):
Absolutely. And he loves what he does. And then about four years ago, after my third was a year and a half, that’s when I came on full time and started going to conferences.
Jennifer Gore (06:03):
What year was that?
Maria Monroy (06:05):
Jennifer Gore (06:07):
Before the pandemic?
Maria Monroy (06:08):
It was before the pandemic, yeah.
Jennifer Gore (06:10):
And so you guys made the decision to, “Hey, now we’re going to go all in?”
Maria Monroy (06:15):
Yes. So it was always assumed that I would do what I’m doing now, but I just wasn’t doing it because I was a stay-at-home mom and I didn’t want to leave the kids and I didn’t want to put the younger in preschool at the time, but at that time, our housekeeper would help me with Chloe. So Mariano looked at me one day and he’s like, “Hey, I’m going to hire someone to help me.”
Jennifer Gore (06:37):
You were like, “No.”
Maria Monroy (06:38):
And I looked at him and I was like, “No, I will do it.” And I literally went and talked to my housekeeper at the time and I was like, “Hey, do you want to be a nanny?” And she was like, “For Chloe?” And I was like, “Yes.” She’s like, “Absolutely.” I was like, “Done.” So we just transitioned and I just started working full-time.
Jennifer Gore (06:53):
So at that point, that’s when your role was kind of changed and they gave you the title?
Maria Monroy (07:00):
I mean I was always a co-founder and I didn’t feel like I earned it at that time. So stepping into it, I was an imposter because it was like he had really done 99% of everything up until that point. So it took a while. I remember I would go to conferences and people would be like, “Oh, who are you here with?” And I’d be like, “LawRank.” Now someone’s like, “Who are you here with?” I’m like, “Oh, I own LawRank.”
Jennifer Gore (07:24):
Do they know that LawRank is synonymous with Maria?
Maria Monroy (07:28):
Now. Now it’s like I have become the face, which wasn’t the plan either.
Jennifer Gore (07:33):
That wasn’t the plan?
Maria Monroy (07:34):
It wasn’t the plan. The plan was that I would be involved in more of building relationships, sales, client relationships, that sort of thing.
Jennifer Gore (07:43):
So how did it turn into what it is today?
Maria Monroy (07:46):
When I started doing Insta stories.
Jennifer Gore (07:48):
Yes. This is also how we became friends.
Maria Monroy (07:52):
It is, yes.
Jennifer Gore (07:52):
Well, no, we met at a conference but I feel like you’re very out there with your stories and you share a lot.
Maria Monroy (07:59):
Jennifer Gore (07:59):
Maria Monroy (08:01):
No, I don’t know if he really liked that because he never wanted a face. We really did and we do still want a brand, but we’ve also come to terms with the fact that people like to work with people.
Jennifer Gore (08:12):
They do. That’s such a struggle for lawyers too. What do you think it is about people needing that face to a brand? Trust?
Maria Monroy (08:21):
Trust, a sense of safety.
Jennifer Gore (08:23):
And assurance of what that brand is or who-
Maria Monroy (08:27):
Who’s backing it?
Jennifer Gore (08:28):
Yeah. ‘Cause I feel like that’s often not scalable, right?
Maria Monroy (08:33):
Jennifer Gore (08:34):
Was that the hesitation?
Maria Monroy (08:35):
Yes. Yeah, it still is.
Jennifer Gore (08:39):
I think that people know what LawRank… I don’t think people think you’re doing all aspects of the services provided.
Maria Monroy (08:48):
You don’t want me doing any of that.
Jennifer Gore (08:49):
But you’re very candid about that.
Maria Monroy (08:50):
Jennifer Gore (08:51):
But you know a lot and you have a lot of people on your team that are technically savvy, that are executing on a high level. So I think the branding though, it’s just people want to be able to know, “If I have a question, who do I go to?” You’re going to direct them to the right person within the company, right?
Maria Monroy (09:11):
Yes. And well, our clients have a project manager and after about two weeks, they don’t even contact me anymore unless we have a personal friendship at that point. And conferences does that, right? Another thing that we didn’t really want was to become friends with our clients.
Jennifer Gore (09:28):
Maria Monroy (09:29):
We didn’t because A, we had a bad experience but B, we felt like we wanted to keep those two things separate. And then David Muñoz came into the picture and we became such good friends with him.
Jennifer Gore (09:43):
I think I met you at a conference with David and you just got along so well.
Maria Monroy (09:49):
Yeah, he was there.
Jennifer Gore (09:50):
He’s a huge fan of LawRank. So he’s always giving great testimonials of your service so it’s a fine line, right?
Maria Monroy (10:00):
I never imagined when I came into the space and started going to conferences that I would make friends.
Jennifer Gore (10:07):
What has life over the last four years of going to conferences been like for you?
Maria Monroy (10:12):
Intense. I really enjoy it. It’s a love-hate, I’m not going to lie. It’s a love-hate because I feel bad leaving the kids. I know you and I have talked a lot about this and I miss them and I feel like I am missing out on time, but I really, really enjoy it. And if I hadn’t made friends… And it wasn’t that I thought, “Oh I’m not going to make friends,” because I know that for me, it’s not difficult to make. I’m very social.
Jennifer Gore (10:33):
Maria Monroy (10:34):
It just never crossed my mind. I was so focused on work that it just never occurred to me that those two would merge.
Jennifer Gore (10:42):
Maria Monroy (10:43):
Jennifer Gore (10:43):
So I mean, how do you feel about the intersection of relationships and business?
Maria Monroy (10:49):
I love it. I just think it’s very natural and I feel like I talk to people in this legal space more than I talk to my group of girlfriends. It just is what it is.
Jennifer Gore (11:00):
It’s a lot of fun people.
Maria Monroy (11:02):
It is, it is.
Jennifer Gore (11:03):
How would you describe the people in this space to somebody who’s never gone to these conferences? Because there’s a lot of people that probably listen to your podcast, they want to come to a conference but they’ve never made it.
Maria Monroy (11:15):
That’s tough. There’s a lot of different personalities. I think I’m very energetic and I don’t mean energetic like I have energy. I mean like I’m all about energy so I gravitate towards people that I think are super cool like you and we just have awesome conversations. We’re not just talking about the weather. We go deep very quickly either about business or life. I think you just need to find your people within the conference space.
Jennifer Gore (11:47):
Find your tribe, yes. I agree. I think there’s some really smart people, there’s some really interesting people. There’s some people doing some really ambitious stuff in this space. There’s people that are just dedicated to their craft and are so mind-blowing what they’ve achieved. And then you just find people, like you said, that you want to spend time with. I think you’re so good at reading people though.
Maria Monroy (12:13):
Jennifer Gore (12:14):
I’ve noticed that about you. What is that?
Maria Monroy (12:16):
I can read people in literally pictures. You’ll show me pictures and I’m like, “I like them. I don’t like them.”
Jennifer Gore (12:23):
Are you ever wrong?
Maria Monroy (12:24):
Yes. I have a friend who I was wrong about, she doesn’t know this so I’m not going to say who, but not in the legal space, but in my real life that I was wrong about. So every now and then, I am wrong but 99% of the time, I am not wrong.
Jennifer Gore (12:42):
Yeah, I know. And you’re very sure. You’re like, “Nope.”
Maria Monroy (12:48):
And I’m guarded too. I feel like-
Jennifer Gore (12:50):
You’ve strong boundaries. That’s what I like to say.
Maria Monroy (12:53):
And if I don’t know someone, it just depends how I feel, I might come across almost like a little standoffish. I don’t mean to be, I’m just like, “I don’t know you yet.” But once I know someone and we’re friends, I feel like I’m the complete opposite.
Jennifer Gore (13:08):
Yes, definitely. I would say that. So what do you think is the biggest misconception you think people have about SEO in 2022?
Maria Monroy (13:19):
That it doesn’t work.
Jennifer Gore (13:20):
Really think people think SEO doesn’t work?
Maria Monroy (13:22):
People say it all the time, “SEO is dead,” but it’s not.
Jennifer Gore (13:26):
That’s not been my experience.
Maria Monroy (13:27):
Jennifer Gore (13:28):
And I own a law firm.
Maria Monroy (13:29):
I know you do.
Jennifer Gore (13:31):
I’m going to say that’s a myth. But why do you think that is?
Maria Monroy (13:35):
So one of two things. Either they’ve never ranked, so they’ve tried all these agencies and it’s never actually worked. Actually three things. Or other firms are telling them it doesn’t work either because they’re lying or because it’s never worked for them, but because they haven’t ranked.
Jennifer Gore (13:52):
And it reinforces the story.
Maria Monroy (13:54):
Or they’ve just never done it right. So you can actually rank on the first page and not see a return investment. It’s not as simple as just ranking on the first page and that’s what my presentation, we’re at TLU live right now and I’m speaking tomorrow, and that’s why my presentation’s going to be about a holistic approach because you don’t just do organic SEO.
Jennifer Gore (14:19):
Maria Monroy (14:19):
You have a local component.
Jennifer Gore (14:20):
I mean you got to do it all, right?
Maria Monroy (14:23):
Jennifer Gore (14:24):
What do you think is more impactful, the local or some more long-term branding type things you can do? What do you think? I mean Google has said that they have a focus on local.
Maria Monroy (14:37):
Yeah, if we’re just talking about first page and I could only pick one thing, I always joke that I have a favorite child. I also have a favorite type of SEO and it’s local, absolutely local.
Jennifer Gore (14:51):
And tell me why.
Maria Monroy (14:53):
It’s higher up on the first page, you have reviews on there, it’s a map. It’s someone near you that’s searching for you. I just think it has more impact than organic.
Jennifer Gore (15:05):
We might have gone too far for the audience, so I just want to make sure that you’re an expert at this, tell people what you mean when you say local SEO in layman’s terms.
Maria Monroy (15:16):
Google My Business.
Jennifer Gore (15:17):
Maria Monroy (15:18):
The GMB or now called I think-
Jennifer Gore (15:21):
Did they change it?
Maria Monroy (15:21):
GBP, Google Business Profile.
Jennifer Gore (15:23):
Okay. So you’re talking about, when you say local SEO, making sure your GMB is dialed.
Maria Monroy (15:31):
Yes. Specifically that you rank top three.
Jennifer Gore (15:34):
In the map.
Maria Monroy (15:35):
In the map within a one mile radius of your office.
Jennifer Gore (15:38):
So people search in their local area and they have a type of search that comes up in the map?
Maria Monroy (15:48):
Jennifer Gore (15:48):
And you think that is where a lot of eyes are going?
Maria Monroy (15:52):
Jennifer Gore (15:52):
You know, you have the data.
Maria Monroy (15:53):
I have the data, yeah.
Jennifer Gore (15:54):
So even if the person is ranking just in the general listings, the map is likely to get more visibility?
Maria Monroy (16:03):
Yes, and it gets a little complicated because organic SEO works very well but it works best in combination with local and making sure that organic, you’re also targeting informational intent searches, meaning the search wasn’t “Car accident lawyer,” the search was broad. It was, “If I’ve been in a car crash, do I need to hire a lawyer? How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?” Or they’re Googling a very specific injury or a very specific type of car accident. That sort of thing. It’s the combination. I mean think about this, Jen, there was a point in time when the first page of Google was only organic, there was no LSA, no Google ads.
Jennifer Gore (16:57):
Maria Monroy (16:57):
Jennifer Gore (16:59):
But don’t you think in some ways, it’s gotten more complicated because there’s so many different places that you can go visually when you go on Google and you search. It’s not like the old days where there was just search terms and a couple things would come up. You’ve got all these different things playing together. You are saying you really need to do them all but you’re saying there’s some that are going to be easier to rank on immediately.
Maria Monroy (17:26):
Not necessarily. You don’t even have to do them all. But I think a combination of is going to be best. I think PPC really depends on the firm. I don’t recommend it for everybody and I don’t recommend it right away initially for everybody.
Jennifer Gore (17:43):
And tell me why.
Maria Monroy (17:44):
Because the cost per case can be pretty high. And I can summarize it this way. The downside of these four different things is that organic is now best case scenario if you rank number one organically, you’re the ninth firm that a person can see.
Jennifer Gore (18:01):
Maria Monroy (18:01):
The upside is that now somebody can see you on the first page of Google four times.
Jennifer Gore (18:09):
Four opportunities, yeah.
Maria Monroy (18:11):
They can see you four times on the first page. If your LSA shows up, your Google ad shows up, your local shows up, and they’re organically too, they literally saw you four times. If we think about branding, even old school branding, it was all about repetition.
Jennifer Gore (18:28):
And volume, seeing it multiple times, different places. So I mean from my side, owning a law firm, how I viewed SEO was just PPC, you’re renting space, SEO, you’re putting your stake in the ground and you’re owning real estate on Google. So a lot of people that I talk to, we look at it as this is a long-term investment. So do you look at it that way as well or no?
Maria Monroy (18:57):
Yes, we do, definitely. I would agree with that. Nobody has ever said it to me that way. I’m going to steal it.
Jennifer Gore (19:02):
Yeah, I mean because you turn off the ads-
Maria Monroy (19:05):
Jennifer Gore (19:06):
They’re gone, right? But the SEO work that we do, it’s cumulative.
Maria Monroy (19:10):
And it’s branding.
Jennifer Gore (19:11):
It’s branding. But also it’s like you can’t just turn on SEO and get an immediate return. It’s got to be built.
Maria Monroy (19:19):
Jennifer Gore (19:20):
Right? When we’re talking about that building of your online real estate, it just takes time for Google to search through all the content you’re putting out. Why does it take so long to kind of build up?
Maria Monroy (19:35):
I like to compare it to credit.
Jennifer Gore (19:37):
Okay, that’s a great comparison.
Maria Monroy (19:39):
It takes time. It takes them to gain trust. That’s what credit is all about.
Jennifer Gore (19:44):
So Google is trying to say, “Is this site credible?”
Maria Monroy (19:47):
Correct. You want to become the authority in your market. And now there are so many metrics that impact it and they change with time. So of course that’s one part. But there are two things that haven’t changed in a very long time and that’s content and back links.
Jennifer Gore (20:07):
Content and back links. Let’s just put those in layman’s terms because we know not everyone is a SEO expert like you. So explain what you mean when you say content and then explain back links.
Maria Monroy (20:19):
So let’s start with content. Content means really any article that is on your website and you want it to-
Jennifer Gore (20:27):
It could be a blog.
Maria Monroy (20:28):
It could be a blog, it could be a commercial intent practice area page. It could be a resource page. Let’s just take a step back, think about how people search. What do you usually use Google for?
Jennifer Gore (20:41):
Just looking up questions, general things you’re trying to figure out.
Maria Monroy (20:46):
Perfect. And you’re right. So most searches are what we call informational intent searches. Somebody has a question-
Jennifer Gore (20:54):
It’s a question.
Maria Monroy (20:55):
They’re looking for information. The other type of search is commercial intent. You’re looking to buy something-
Jennifer Gore (21:01):
Maria Monroy (21:02):
Or hire a service. Everybody wants to rank for commercial intent searches, car accident lawyer, slip and fall, truck accident, med mal, so on and so forth, correct?
Jennifer Gore (21:11):
Yeah. I know where you’re going with this and I’ve never thought of it that way, that there’s really only two avenues of search.
Maria Monroy (21:19):
There’s only two. That’s it. They really fall under one or the other. I guess you could say entertainment is another, right?
Jennifer Gore (21:27):
So everybody’s vying for the commercial one. Not as many people are vying for the informational.
Maria Monroy (21:34):
It’s the other way around. Most of our searches are informational in nature.
Jennifer Gore (21:39):
But I’m saying in the space of a lot of law firms, they want to be seen on the commercial side and that’s where they’re going. But really the volume of search is more informational.
Maria Monroy (21:51):
And we have to stop and think about what does Google want? Well, Google’s no different than you or me. It wants money.
Jennifer Gore (21:56):
Maria Monroy (21:57):
How does Google get money? Through LSA and Google ads. But is it that simple? No, Google needs users. Is it just users? No, it’s repeat users. Why do people keep going back to Google? It’s because Google does the best job out of any search engine out there to give you the answer to the question that you’re looking for. But Google’s not the one that’s writing… They’re not writing the questions, they’re just simply selecting the best websites.
Jennifer Gore (22:23):
The best answers.
Maria Monroy (22:25):
Best answers. That’s what their whole algorithm does.
Jennifer Gore (22:28):
Maria Monroy (22:30):
So what do you need to do if you’re a website?
Jennifer Gore (22:33):
So if you’re just putting up trash content, you’re actually going against Google.
Maria Monroy (22:37):
Exactly. You’re wasting their time because now they’re crawling through this crappy content.
Jennifer Gore (22:44):
Or other people’s content that you’ve recycled, which we see a lot.
Maria Monroy (22:47):
Yeah, you don’t want to do that guys.
Jennifer Gore (22:49):
That’s a no, right? That’s a absolute no.
Maria Monroy (22:52):
It’s a huge no.
Jennifer Gore (22:53):
But it’s so pervasive.
Maria Monroy (22:54):
Jennifer Gore (22:55):
A lot of other companies have been caught doing that.
Maria Monroy (22:58):
Jennifer Gore (22:59):
What do you think about this idea, I’ve heard of this before, I haven’t run into it myself, but this idea of black hat SEO?
Maria Monroy (23:06):
So it’s really funny to me when I hear people talk about white hat and black hat because white hat means that you have so much content. And a perfect example of this is Shouse Law. And most California even law students know about this website because they’ve literally taken the website and they’ve copied every single California penal code and explained it and they get a crazy amount of traffic. Now they’re in other states, it’s a criminal defense site. But white hat means that you have so much content that people naturally give you a back link. So what is a back link? A back link is another website that has a link and when you click that link, it goes to your website. It’s a website that links you back.
Jennifer Gore (23:47):
So give us an example. I mean I know what it is, but let’s do an example.
Maria Monroy (23:52):
Findlaw.com, you have a profile with findlaw.com, it says visit profile, you click it, it goes to your website. That’s a back link. I want you to think of Google really like a library. So if an article of content is indexed in Google, it means that it’s in the… When we would go to a library, we’d look at the index. You could have a book in the library, but if it’s not in the index, people are going to assume it’s not there. It’s the same thing with Google. A back link is meant to be a citation.
Jennifer Gore (24:22):
Maria Monroy (24:22):
So you’re writing a paper, you cite your source, right? It’s really just meant to be a citation. So this idea of white hat SEO is great. However, I really believe that in our space there’s no such thing as white hat SEO.
Jennifer Gore (24:37):
Maria Monroy (24:37):
It’s more of a gray hat scenario because when an agency or an in-house team or anybody is creating back links to manipulate Google, that’s not white hat.
Jennifer Gore (24:50):
Maria Monroy (24:51):
So you have to do it-
Jennifer Gore (24:52):
So can you describe what black hat is? Because a lot of people… I hadn’t heard that term until maybe two years ago.
Maria Monroy (24:58):
Black hat just means that you’re trying to manipulate the algorithm and you’re doing things that are spammy instead of just giving Google what it wants.
Jennifer Gore (25:05):
Like not real content. You’re trying to take shortcuts, quick hacks. What is the danger of doing that?
Maria Monroy (25:14):
I believe that as the algorithm goes through, you could rank for a little bit, but as the algorithm runs, it’s just going to bump you back down. Before you could get sandbox and punished and literally you had filed for bankruptcy and you had seven years where nothing was going to happen. It’s not really like that anymore. It’s just you get dinged in credit.
Jennifer Gore (25:32):
It’s not a long term play.
Maria Monroy (25:35):
It’s not a long term play because Google’s algorithm… I think it’s actually very difficult now. You can do things that are very spammy, but Google’s algorithm has gone so good.
Jennifer Gore (25:45):
Maria Monroy (25:46):
That it’s just very difficult. What you really want to do is have the content and make sure the content is actually generating traffic. Because what happens is if you have a ton of content, or even if you don’t have content and you don’t have any traffic because either your content sucks or you don’t have content, but you have all these back links, Google’s like, “Wait a minute, no one’s read your book. It’s never been opened before. But you’re getting all these citations.”
Jennifer Gore (26:15):
It doesn’t make sense.
Maria Monroy (26:16):
It doesn’t make any sense so right away-
Jennifer Gore (26:20):
So it’s cumulative again. There’s such a focus for so many people that are looking at SEO as to the way their website looks. I don’t know if everyone realizes this, but most of the times the company that’s going to handle your SEO is also going to manage your website. So what are your thoughts on the way that a website actually looks and how that connects to the performance?
Maria Monroy (26:45):
So there are two things that are really crucial about a website. One is the way that it looks because of conversion. So it’s one thing to get you to the first page. It’s another thing to get you to convert. Are people actually calling you or contacting you when they’re on your website? That’s one. Number two is really the development of a website. The way that it’s coded. It’s not all the same. It really depends on who coded and how they coded it.
Jennifer Gore (27:13):
Well, you’re talking about the framework, the infrastructure, that has to be right for all these other pieces to work.
Maria Monroy (27:20):
So if you go to the gym and you have bad form, are you going to up the weight?
Jennifer Gore (27:24):
Maria Monroy (27:24):
Okay. It’s the same concept. So if your website isn’t developed correctly and you spend all this money in SEO, you’re just going to get hurt. You’re going to bleed out money because it’s not going to go anywhere.
Jennifer Gore (27:36):
Because it’s not optimized kind of?
Maria Monroy (27:40):
Because it’s either not user-friendly or it breaks a lot. So what happens is if somebody coded it that doesn’t know how to code correctly and you want really high-end developers developing websites because of speed and user-friendliness, what’ll happen is anytime there’s a change made, it breaks a bunch of other things.
Jennifer Gore (27:58):
Which then you invested all this money in SEO and then it’s all for what?
Maria Monroy (28:02):
And Google’s annoyed because it’s like, “Hey, your website keeps breaking so I crawl it and now all of a sudden this is all messed up.” And what happens is when a website breaks, it creates a poor user experience.
Jennifer Gore (28:15):
They don’t want to bring people there.
Maria Monroy (28:16):
Jennifer Gore (28:17):
So when people are getting so focused on, “I want this beautiful website with all these videos and it’s very flashy,” but it’s a super slow website, what do you think on that?
Maria Monroy (28:28):
Yeah, it’s not only that it’s slow, but people don’t know where to look and it doesn’t convert. And it’s like Cheesecake Factory. The first time you go to Cheesecake Factory, you open up the menu, you’re like, “I am so overwhelmed with this menu. Is any of this good?” So that’s really important. And the other thing to know, I think, a lot of firms are really burnt out on this idea that, “Every time I switch over to an SEO agency, I have to redo my website.” And I think a lot of agencies do utilize that to make more money. So for us, if we look at the design and the development and it’s solid-
Jennifer Gore (29:06):
You’re not going to recommend it.
Maria Monroy (29:07):
We’re not going to recommend it because anytime you do a website redesign, what also happens is Google freaks out a little bit. Goes like, “Wait a minute, hold on, I got to go check and make sure that this is what it used to be.” So it’s not always something that we recommend. 9 out of 10 times, maybe even more, yes. But we’ve definitely have clients that we said, “Okay, this works, this is developed properly.” Sometimes we have to make a few tweaks. But I think that’s also part of the hesitation that firms are just tired of that.
Jennifer Gore (29:39):
How often should you be updating your site holistically?
Maria Monroy (29:44):
Five to seven years.
Jennifer Gore (29:45):
Okay. So if you have a good site, you can build on it with changing pages, doing things, but kind of a refresh five to seven years.
Maria Monroy (29:55):
Jennifer Gore (29:56):
When it comes to clients, this is something I noticed about you a long time ago when I first met you, you always told me, “I’m really picky. I don’t want to work with everyone.”
Maria Monroy (30:06):
Jennifer Gore (30:07):
It’s so funny, I always wonder was that originally like a counter-sale?
Maria Monroy (30:12):
Jennifer Gore (30:13):
“This is a very exclusive club, you can’t come in,” but then I got to know you more and I’m like, “No, she really only wants to work with certain people.” So tell me about why you would want to work with someone. What is a good match? Because you always talk about match.
Maria Monroy (30:25):
So A, we don’t work with assholes, we just don’t. What we do is very difficult. I mean it always just blows my mind how everybody’s doing SEO, everybody thinks they’re going to make it to the top three spots on the first page. My husband always says, “Maria, it’s hard to find a good pizza place.” I mean it’s hard to be the best at anything. It’s hard to be the best trial lawyer. It’s hard to be the top three in 5,000 businesses. It’s hard to be top three in anything. But everybody thinks that they’re going to make it to the top.
Jennifer Gore (31:01):
But don’t you think everybody has different versions of what they think is the top?
Maria Monroy (31:06):
I just mean when we’re talking about SEO and you say to me-
Jennifer Gore (31:10):
Ranking and that’s very clear. But for you, you’re very selective on what you consider a good client.
Maria Monroy (31:16):
Yeah, we can’t fight for the client and fight with the client.
Jennifer Gore (31:20):
Maria Monroy (31:21):
That was my whole point.
Jennifer Gore (31:22):
Maria Monroy (31:23):
We can’t fight for them and fight with them. And I’ve had to say this to a couple clients, I’ve had to fire clients. I’m like, “Look, you talk to my team a certain way and then you ask them to go fight for you, they’re not going to want to fight for you consciously or subconsciously.”
Jennifer Gore (31:39):
So what are the qualities of… Because you always say, “We work with ambitious law firms,” and I think I love that tag.
Maria Monroy (31:45):
We want law firms that want to grow, they don’t just want a few cases here, and that’s not what we do. Your phone’s going to ring. No, we want firms that are open to learning, that are willing to go and get the reviews, go and get the brick and mortar-
Jennifer Gore (32:02):
All the recommendations.
Maria Monroy (32:03):
That want to work together. And I think most agencies don’t really want to work that closely with a client.
Jennifer Gore (32:10):
Yeah, and that was one of the things that stood out about you guys. It is going to be a collaborative relationship. And it’s like if you say, “Hey, you got to go get another GMB location,” you can’t physically go do that for them.
Maria Monroy (32:23):
No, we can’t.
Jennifer Gore (32:24):
But yet, if you don’t get the law firm owner or the company to get it done, it’s going to limit what you can do.
Maria Monroy (32:31):
Yeah. I also, and this is going to sound conceited, but I feel like firms are lucky to work with us. I feel like you’re the lucky one. I don’t need your account that badly. I don’t even need it, to just be super honest. So it’s like if you’re going to work with us, then this has to be a good relationship. Now I get it if we mess something up. I get that and I’m not saying we don’t own our mistakes if we do make one, but I’m saying just the day to day, it just has to be a good fit.
Jennifer Gore (33:02):
You’re just basically saying that life is too short to work with people you hate?
Maria Monroy (33:06):
Yeah. Or that I don’t even like.
Jennifer Gore (33:08):
And I think that’s refreshing because there are a ton of people out there working with people and they’re not being honest that it’s not a match. Just sometimes it’s also like culture. Is this a match? It sounds like you guys want to work with growth-oriented people and we know that there are firms out there, they say they might be growth, they’re not. She’s smiling.
Maria Monroy (33:31):
I’m thinking of a bunch of people. I’m just kidding.
Jennifer Gore (33:34):
And that’s okay. There’s probably a great brand out there for them.
Maria Monroy (33:39):
Jennifer Gore (33:40):
Another thing you guys are known for is SEO reporting.
Maria Monroy (33:43):
Jennifer Gore (33:44):
So if you do all this reporting and then they don’t look at it-
Maria Monroy (33:48):
We can tell who looks at it.
Jennifer Gore (33:50):
You can, okay.
Maria Monroy (33:51):
That tells us who’s clicked on it and who hasn’t.
Jennifer Gore (33:53):
So you guys want to make sure that people are looking at it?
Maria Monroy (33:55):
Jennifer Gore (33:56):
What do you think is the most important thing? There’s so many people out there that are trying to figure out their SEO and I love data, you love data, but not everyone does. So what do you think you should be looking at monthly on reporting?
Maria Monroy (34:09):
That’s a great question. Local Falcon reports or something comparable, so that’s a report that shows you on a map how your GMB listings, so local SEO, how you’re doing within a one mile radius. So it puts little dots on the map and it tells you, “Here you’re number one, here you’re 15th.” You want to be top three. That’s number one. And then this is something I’m really passionate about, when it comes to the organic portion, you want to look at your top rank competitors and their metrics. So you want to look at referring domains, you want to look at content and my favorite, KPI. If someone said to me, “I can only look at one thing and one thing only, what should I look at?” Your traffic.
Jennifer Gore (34:50):
Traffic. Traffic, absolutely.
Maria Monroy (34:52):
Organic traffic. Is it going up? Because if you have an agency that… There’s this big misconception, “I’m not going to have traffic till I rank on the first page.”
Jennifer Gore (35:00):
Maria Monroy (35:00):
I’m like, “You’re not going to get to the first page if you are not getting the informational intent searches, if you’re not giving Google what it wants, which is to answer the freaking questions.”
Jennifer Gore (35:08):
They’re not going to raise you.
Maria Monroy (35:10):
And also, think of it this way, let’s think of it from just a super intuitive standpoint. If somebody searches car accident lawyer and Google has a choice of showing them a website that have their commercial car accident page only, or it has a website that answers a ton of questions regarding personal injury accidents, what’s a better experience for the user?
Jennifer Gore (35:37):
The one that answers more.
Maria Monroy (35:39):
Exactly. And I’ve actually had people on the phone that I’m doing these introductory calls and I explain to them, they’re like, “Well, you’re going to have to figure out how to do it without informational intent content because I don’t want that on my website.”
Jennifer Gore (35:52):
Maria Monroy (35:53):
And I’m like, “If we could do it without that, that’d be awesome. Be way cheaper to do it that way. This is not going to be a good fit because we can’t.” And they’re literally like, “Well, that’s your job to figure it out.” I’m like, “Yeah, it just can’t be done. Yeah, I wish you the best of luck, buddy.” I don’t even know what to say at that point.
Jennifer Gore (36:12):
Yeah, it’s like a lot of people think they’re an expert on the subject, they aren’t.
Maria Monroy (36:17):
Well, my presentation at SEO Lawyer was like, “I know you think you know enough to be dangerous, but you actually only think that because if you knew enough, you would be on the first page.” I’m sorry guys, like 99.9% of you do not know enough to be dangerous.
Jennifer Gore (36:33):
Maria Monroy (36:34):
And it’s the worst thing because you think you know, and you ask these questions to agencies.
Jennifer Gore (36:38):
I think the better thing to do as a law firm, just my opinion, is to know how to ask the right questions.
Maria Monroy (36:47):
But what are some of the right questions?
Jennifer Gore (36:49):
How do I view growth on my SEO? To educate yourself on what are the questions that I should… What are the KPIs? What is the data points that matter? And to be curious versus to come in and think you know it all.
Maria Monroy (37:04):
Jennifer Gore (37:05):
I think the more curious you are as a business owner, you get better information out of your vendors.
Maria Monroy (37:11):
Jennifer Gore (37:12):
The vendors that know their shit are completely willing to answer your questions.
Maria Monroy (37:17):
Jennifer Gore (37:18):
And they are like, “Yeah, let me show you and you want to learn? I’m here to help you.” The people that the moment you ask them the questions, they fold, that to me has been the indication of whether or not the vendor is a good fit or they really know what they’re doing. And I think if people spent more of their time as a owner of a business doing that than trying to say they’re the number one expert on SEO, which could take the next 10 years, I just think that’s a huge missed opportunity. But I mean, as the vendor, it’s your job to educate people on what they should be asking.
Maria Monroy (38:01):
Correct. Sometimes I literally stop people because they’ll be like, “How many hours a month are you going to be putting into my project?” And I’m like, “Well, what if I put 200 hours into your project, but I don’t rank you? You’re asking the wrong questions.”
Jennifer Gore (38:12):
You’re asking the wrong questions.
Maria Monroy (38:12):
And you’re going to have somebody that gives you the answer that you want to hear. These are the questions that you really need to be asking. Sometimes I get a request for proposal and in the request for proposal, it actually gives the budget that they have. And I’m like, “You’re just going to get someone that gives you exactly what you’re asking for but that doesn’t equate to results.”
Jennifer Gore (38:33):
Maria Monroy (38:33):
It just does not.
Jennifer Gore (38:36):
It’s got to be a collaborative relationship. And I think people have to put in the time, they have to be curious, they have to ask questions, they have to consistently take the advice and then measure it, measure it. “Are we seeing growth? Are we seeing growth? Are we moving in some direction?” Because I just think a lot of law firm owners are completely checked out from what’s really going on in a multitude of areas, not only SEO. They’re not really looking and asking the right questions. And you are one of those people that always… “Let’s talk about it. Let’s get into it.”
Maria Monroy (39:09):
And it’s funny you say this because it’s one of the things that our clients, whenever they give us testimonials, that’s one of the things that they say, “They actually answered my question.” And I’ve been on calls where people are like, “Maria, I’ve spoken to six people and no one’s answered this question.”
Jennifer Gore (39:24):
Maria Monroy (39:25):
“You’re actually answering this question. Thank you.” And to me, it’s like I don’t know any other way of being so it’s like, “Yeah, of course. I’ll answer the question.”
Jennifer Gore (39:34):
Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that you guys are super smart on SEO. Everybody that I talk to knows that when you give a speech, it’s very clear that you’re passionate on helping people to learn how to grow their business, period. And you guys just happen to do it through SEO.
Maria Monroy (39:50):
Jennifer Gore (39:51):
Well, how do you think this is all going to change when technology changes and AI and we go to, “Hey Alexa, find me a lawyer?”
Maria Monroy (40:01):
Well, if that’s pulling it from Google, that’s the same thing really.
Jennifer Gore (40:05):
So the investments now are going to transition over to the AI?
Maria Monroy (40:09):
I really don’t know. I hope so. I mean, I do know that the latest algorithm, it really impacted any AI written content, which we don’t do so that was good. So we were like, “Yes.” And it didn’t really seem to impact the legal community much because one thing everyone needs to know is that when it comes to law, you’re under more scrutiny with Google because it’s called Your Money, Your Life. There are three categories that fall under that, health, financial, and law.
Jennifer Gore (40:36):
Tell me more about that.
Maria Monroy (40:37):
It just means that Google has different rules or… I don’t if rules-
Jennifer Gore (40:40):
Maria Monroy (40:41):
Yeah, standards for any category that falls under those three things because they’re just more meaningful to us.
Jennifer Gore (40:48):
They could have a bigger impact if it was fraud or a lie.
Maria Monroy (40:52):
Yeah. It’s just they’re under more scrutiny and they don’t actually say what the algorithm is. They say very little.
Jennifer Gore (41:01):
Just figure it out by-
Maria Monroy (41:01):
You have to figure it out.
Jennifer Gore (41:03):
Process of elimination.
Maria Monroy (41:04):
But we believe that a lot of the things that they implement are potentially being implemented in the legal, financial, and health sector first. And they test things. So that’s why some markets are different because they might be testing an algorithm in that market.
Jennifer Gore (41:20):
That’s pretty much what happened with LSA, right?
Maria Monroy (41:22):
Jennifer Gore (41:22):
I mean as that progressed, they had to evolve it because-
Maria Monroy (41:26):
And it just changed. I don’t know if you know, but before you could rank into LSA like a hundred miles out. They’re really cutting back on that. So it’s kind of similar to what happened with local SEO, how at first your reach could be so much greater and now I feel like they’re starting to minimize that radius.
Jennifer Gore (41:45):
So are you encouraging people to get more locations?
Maria Monroy (41:48):
Yes. Well, we have them forever because of local, but now it’s also impacting LSA.
Jennifer Gore (41:55):
That’s so interesting.
Maria Monroy (41:56):
Jennifer Gore (41:56):
You just got to be always… I think what’s cool about this is, you’re never done, right?
Maria Monroy (42:01):
No, never. Well, it’s like life, right? You and I talk about self-growth a lot, we’re never done.
Jennifer Gore (42:07):
Yeah, you always are like, “What’s Google going to do next?” Because we all know we got to be on our game. Because if you try to set this stuff and forget it-
Maria Monroy (42:15):
Jennifer Gore (42:15):
Maria Monroy (42:16):
And that’s one of the things also, that you’re hiring an agency to stay up with it because it changes so much. We track so many websites, websites and markets that we’re not even in.
Jennifer Gore (42:28):
Because you have to see what’s about to happen.
Maria Monroy (42:30):
And what people are doing that seems to be working.
Jennifer Gore (42:33):
It was awesome talking to you. I think-
Maria Monroy (42:34):
Jennifer Gore (42:35):
We got to see behind the curtains here at LawRank and the brains behind this operation. You and Mariano are amazing and I’m just so excited to be your friend and to be on here with you today.
Maria Monroy (42:53):
Thank you so much to Jennifer Gore for hosting today’s special edition of Tip the Scales. SEO is alive and well. To rank on the first page, hire a team that gets results and has ranked other firms. If you can only focus on one aspect of SEO, go with local. It will have the most impact. When making decisions, think like Google and remember that like building credit, ranking takes time. Google needs to know that your site is an authority.
If you found out conversation valuable, please share it with someone you want to see succeed. Subscribe so you never miss an episode and leave a five star review. It goes a long way to help others discover the show. Catch us next week on Tip the Scales with me, Maria Monroy, president of LawRank, hear how the best in the business broke out of limiting beliefs, overcame adversity, and built a thriving purpose-driven business in the process.