How Our ex-Client Made $1,500,000 by Firing Us

loseJust got a call from an ex client…. who brought in a whopping $1.5 million dollar case because he left us.  He wasn’t calling to gloat, but instead to say thank you…. you see I had been telling him to leave us for months.  Here’s why:

The firm in question is a mid sized, very successful firm in a tech-savvy city.  They were early adopters of online marketing – in fact I’ve known them since my early days at Avvo.  Historically, they’ve done their marketing themselves and have never been caught up in the shiniest new thing being proffered at legal marketing conferences (Meerkat anyone?) as the next big thing.  In doing so, they’ve developed a small but manageable number of successful sites and blogs dedicated to different, highly specific topics.  But…. over time, as the search engines algos have evolved, this multi domain strategy has become increasingly expensive and ineffectual (I say this generally as well as for this specific client.)  As more and more savvy marketers got into the game, their rankings fell, traffic dropped and the calls feel off to zero.  So – they called me to fix the problem and I told them right off the bat:

You should do a simple project to migrate this content to your very strong primary domain instead of investing the amount required to build up multiple domains.

I’ve always said its more than twice as expensive to market two sites as one and this was an extreme example.  But…. as clients sometimes do (even SEO clients) they didn’t want to hear it… insisted we invest in the subject specific site. And while I shared my fears about success, (we believe in not making our clients happy, but making them successful)…. between November 2013 and June of 2014, we did as they asked, polishing the site, building links, generating great content…. standard SEO stuff.  And we got the site squeaky and clean – to a tune of about $23,000.

And nothing happened.

Traffic didn’t return.

The calls didn’t come in.

And every four weeks when we met with the client, I always told them….. you should really just move the content.  Finally after reviewing yet another flat line of traffic data, they relented.  We parted ways with a smile and an expensive glass of scotch.

Here’s the best part:  my ex-client started our conversation with:  “You were totally right!  We never should have wasted all of that money…. it took a while, but the traffic came back after we migrated the content to our primary site.  The phone has been ringing.”  I silenced my “I told you so” but have made a note that they’ll be buying the scotch next time we meet up.


  1. Sam says

    Why did you have to part ways? What prevented YOU from migrating the content and continuing to do SEO for the main site?

    • Conrad says

      We did the migration…. but the site was so strong, it frankly didn’t need any work. One of those great cases where the best solution was extremely inexpensive.

  2. Alex says

    Interesting stuff. I think you just told me that I am doing it wrong, but I need to hear it again (and maybe again after that).

    What’s the takeaway if I do one thing now (criminal defense) and want to do another thing in the future (PI)?

    I started out doing a general practice, with website content about criminal defense, divorce, general civil litigation, and civil rights. You might be thinking I should specialize. I agree. I turned that site into just a criminal defense site, with a lot of specific content. It ranks well in my local, extremely non-competitive market. My plan is to hand the criminal defense off to an associate in the next 18 months, and then do PI. So I registered a domain for PI and am slowly building that out.

    I guess the question is how do you reconcile (1) having a coherent site that speaks to your ideal client (e.g. don’t put divorce, criminal defense and PI on the same hero homepage); (2) multiple practice areas; and (3) ranking in your practice areas? It seems like what you’re saying is you only get 2, and you should pick 2 and 3.

    • Conrad says

      Alex – nice to see you again…. I recall a nice coffee we had, I believe at Alki bakery.

      Anyway – to your question – the answer is, of course, somewhat nuanced. A lot of what you need to consider in guiding your answer is the competitive landscape – and I know you are in a smaller area…. so it is possible that, with basic best practices, you can do well with multiple sites. BUT – in general, I find the only people who recommend running lots of different law firm websites and people who sell….. wait for it…. law firm websites. In general – multiple sites are confusing to search engines (which site is this company’s site? are there two different companies? what about these different numbers?) – so you can end up with NAP issues AND most costly – you need to linkbuild to multiple different domains and that is the hardest, most creative, expensive and confounding element of SEO. So, overall we recommend consolidation of domains, which consolidates authority, reduces SEO investment and drives more traffic and therefore business at a lower cost.

      • Alex says

        That was a lovely coffee at the Alki Bakery. I’m still playing around with some of the ideas we talked about. I’d love to see some examples of websites that do multiple practice areas well. I think the deeper answer for me is going to be just focusing on one practice area and accepting the limits of my small market. Always a pleasure reading your thoughts.