Why You SHOULDN’T Start a Law Firm Podcast

82% of podcasts fail.

If you are thinking about starting a podcast to market your law practice, stop. Don’t do it. And stop listening to marketers who don’t know what it takes to not only produce but to start and grow a successful podcast.  Let’s face it – if you are reading this post, you also probably have no clue what it takes to really make a podcast successful.

I’m certainly not saying podcasts aren’t an effective marketing mechanism – along with co-host, Gyi Tskakalakis, I podcast bimonthly at Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. It gives me a great opportunity to talk to a dedicated, engaged, regular audience; showcase my deep understanding of digital marketing, and display my rough-around-the-edges, no-bullshit personality in a way that most standard marketing can’t. That’s a huge value. But I also know that Lunch Hour Legal Marketing’s success in podcasting has come at a large investment in time, consistency, money, audio expertise, and leveraged social media equity.  And it’s the latter elements of podcasting that are so easily glossed over by naively optimistic legal marketers who jump on the podcast bandwagon because they listen to Pod Save America on their commute. The same experts who jumped on “content is king”, multiple domains, .law TLDs, meerkat, and Clubhouse. The truth is, podcasting success is often pitched by marketers who don’t understand the Field of Dreams content marketing fallacy: build it and they will come. Write the blog and they will come. Shoot the video and they will come. Tik the Tok and they will come. And now… record the podcast and they will come.

If I haven’t dissuaded or insulted you yet, please read on to see some of the pitfalls of podcasting along with some recommendations of what it takes to make a podcast successful…

Podcasting is Very Very Crowded

The fundamental problem with podcasts is there are lots of them. Lots and lots. And the growth in podcasts has far outpaced the growth in ears listening to podcasts. This isn’t a new marketing phenomenon; way back in 2015 a prescient writer at Wired published this post: If Podcasts Are the New Blogs, Enjoy the Golden Age While It Lasts – the key element in this headline being “While It Lasts”.  Perhaps the entire perspective on my post is summed up in the Wired subheadline:

“Podcasts hold the promise of a great new democratized medium. But how many blogs do you read now?”

Indeed most people aren’t consuming more and more blog content, but does that hold true for each podcast episode (spoiler alert – it does).  While the number of podcast subscribers has steadily increased –  with more than 30% of the US population listening to podcasts monthly, there are now over 2 million podcasts with over 48 million episodes.  Supply went on a date with Demand and the result is not in your freshman personal injury blog podcast’s favor. ListenNotes (a podcast search engine) reports over 10K podcasts covering law – sure, some of them might be about “murphy’s law” or “laws of attraction” but there’s over 2,500 titled Lawyer. You really sure you want to be #2,501? So while the Field of Dreams theory worked for Kevin Costner, it doesn’t really work for content on the internet (and never has).

The practice of Content Marketing is really missing the point. Content Marketing should really be called Marketing Content – because the emphasis (of your time, money, effort, human capital) should be focused on the marketing side of it, yet almost all lawyers and most marketers focus exclusively on the tangible, fun Content part. (It’s especially convenient for lazy agencies who pass the effort on to their legal clients but fail to push their role – the Marketing part…. “yeah yeah yeah, just keep up with that content creation thing and eventually….”)  A very blunt and unscientific rule of thumb for Content Marketing is 20/80 – i.e. you should spend four times as much effort (time and/or money) on marketing the content as you spend on creating it. Now consider recording a half-hour podcast; you spend a bare minimum of 30 minutes on post production and distribution. Are you really up for putting in the additional 4 hours of hard work needed to market it?  Probably not.

Podcast Failures – by the Numbers

While there is much coverage about the explosion of podcasts and podcast listenership, very little has been written or analyzed about podcast failure.  In an interview with Amplifi Media, Blubrry (a podcasting tool) CEO, Todd Cochrane notes that just 18% of podcasts added new content in the past three months. Deeper analysis shows that more than half of all podcasts are abandoned within a year of launch. Put another way, your marriage is more likely to succeed than your podcast. How’s that for a downer on way too many levels?

Marketing a Podcast

So in order to avoid becoming a podcasting statistic…. don’t underestimate the effort required in building a regular listenership of subscribers eagerly anticipating your next audio wisdom drop on Apple Podcasts. Driving listeners requires much more than amazing, engaging content (yeah – you heard that from an SEO dude). It requires a turning of the marketing flywheel – essentially a lot of hard work to build to a level of self-sustaining audience growth where your listeners drive more listeners and your download success keeps you at the top of the podcast recommendation engines. Trending podcast anyone? (And yup…. here’s an entirely new algorithm optimization science to learn). Sure, if you have an existing, loyal, engaged social profile you can add podcasts to the panoply of content delivered to your audience.  But if you don’t, it’s time to start advertising, promoting, cross podcasting, writing, and rewriting titles and descriptions. Time to learn the vagaries of an entirely new marketing channel – how to optimize each episode across numerous podcasting platforms. Learn new KPI’s, master new software, and invest in new tools Veritronic, Podtrac, Chartable.

And don’t forget, while you are marketing that podcast…. that is resources and brain space you aren’t using to directly market your firm.

The Train Has Left The Station

Let’s go back to the Wired headline: “Enjoy the Golden Age While It Lasts”. Marketing your podcast today is MUCH more difficult than it was 5 years (or even 5 months) ago. Just like early adopter blogs, which had a unique advantage in building readership, early podcasts have established their audience and this gives them an unfair advantage of commanding the downloads and ears of your potential podcast audience. Read another way: switching loyal listeners from an established podcast to a new one is difficult and with over 2,000 new podcasts being introduced every week, the math is stacked against you. The first-mover advantage is very real in both blogs and podcasting. Remember that flywheel analogy earlier?  That flywheel is much much heavier today than it was historically.  If you are considering starting a podcast today, that first-mover advantage is so far in the rear-view mirror that you have an uphill battle to climb.

Your Legal Content Is (Probably) Boring

Sorry bloggers and now podcasters – most of your pertinent legal content is not the stuff of podcast success.  “10 Things to Do after you receive a traffic ticket in Minneapolis.” Bleh. I’d rather listen to 10th-grade trigonometry class over Zoom from a bored, underpaid, and under-appreciated teacher. This is further complicated by the temporal nature of podcasts colliding with the evergreen nature of the majority of high converting legal content – i.e. what’s the latest and greatest new information about probate? You may work in a practice area that is more newsworthy and coverable – changes in tax law for example (yawn), but by and large those high converting head terms “car accident lawyer San Diego” really aren’t podcast worthy.

So your dull law firm content must be malleable. The challenge becomes reframing your criminal defense law firm podcast into a more interesting, pertinent, timely, consumer-friendly focus – covering the budding marijuana industry in St. Louis, for example. Or your family law practice into a podcast on celebrity divorces. Or move away from law entirely and talk about your community – your PI law firm’s podcast talks about favorite restaurants in Rhode Island – the Providence Pizza Podcast. But ultimately, given the general nature of law firms, you almost certainly need to spin, shift, pivot, reframe, or otherwise do something to dress up your dull law firm content.

Podcasting and SEO

It seems like every latest marketing shiny object includes the promise of “improving your SEO”.  The push by marketers and agencies towards podcasts is almost comical… a recent marketing expert extolling the SEO virtues of podcasts for lawyers included this gem:

The potential for high SEO value is one of the added benefits of producing a podcast. Your law firm can advance its marketing goals with a podcast that is rich in relevant keywords and phrases, backlinks, social mentions and shareable content.

A podcast rich in relevant keywords…. rich in backlinks? Backlinks? Can someone please explain the HTML code one uses to insert a link into an audio file? And haven’t we put to bed the “social mentions as an SEO ranking factor” theory? It’s not that great podcasts can’t generate links – guest podcasting can drive links to bio pages, episodes that are featured (and marketed) on your own site may drive links, show notes with links, etc., just don’t forget that the vast majority of podcasts are syndicated and most podcasts earned links will go to those syndication sources instead of your law firm website.  For more on Podcasting and real Linkbuilding try: How to Use Podcasts for Linkbuilding, but my meta point remains – the “record a podcast and SEO will magically happen” is a far-fetched Field of Dreams. And yes, I’m still waiting for that link.

Recording Podcasts Well

Actually, recording and post-producing a podcast requires a special talent, background, and experience.  Read differently: while amateur video may lend an air of personality and accessibility to a lawyer, a poorly produced podcast is… just frankly hard to listen to. And this gets increasingly complicated when you include more than one person on a podcast; matching audio volumes and different recording software is far from straightforward.  Additionally, podcasts invariably require post-production from multiple takes due to verbal fumbles, missed talking points, and if you are like me, removing the occasional spontaneous f-bomb. Our Lunch Hour Legal Marketing podcast has an amazing professional recording and production crew who handles all of this, headaches we don’t have to worry about; but you do.

I’m not suggesting podcasts don’t work… just that most people who are mulling, “should I start a podcast” have very little insight into the time, effort, and money required to make them successful. So… if your agency is pushing you to podcast, ask them what the KPIs are, how they configure GarageBand, how to promote a loyal readership, what tools you need, how to generate appealing content, and exactly what it takes to get an episode trending. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s much harder than the marketing experts you’ve been listening to realize.

82% of all podcasts fail – and most of them have more innate consumer-centric appeal than your Atlanta Criminal Defense Law Firm Podcast.  And if I still haven’t convinced you… tune in tomorrow for a post from the producer of my podcast, Lunch Hour Legal Marketing he showcases what it takes to generate an amazing podcast. (Don’t know what a plosive is?….  tune in tomorrow to find out.).

SharpSpring vs. Hubspot

Over the past two years, we’ve had the painful experience of switching CRM systems not once but twice.  In this video I talk about the true costs of a CRM system and why the “savings” from SharpSpring ended up costing my firm a ton of money – in both productivity and lost clients.

The one thing I didn’t mention in this video (as pointed out by the poor guy who had to handle this) was the immense pain in setting up SharpSpring.  While importing data from one CRM to another is always going to be complicated, this effort took my number 1 guy months of painstaking work to complete.  The upside?  Pulling stuff form Sharpspring into HubSpot, much smoother.

If you are looking for information specifically around HubSpot for the legal industry, you can learn more here in our post: Hubspot for Lawyers.

Advanced link building: “we are killing black men….”

This is a short clip from a tragically prescient link building presentation I gave at PILMMA way back in 2016.  It touches in a a very very difficult subject, challenges the legal community to get more involved locally and showcases the SEO benefits of doing so.  Yeah – it may seem tone-deaf callous and opportunistic, but really its a call for the legal community to get more involved in their communities at a very intimate level.

 

Beware the FOMO Legal Marketing Agency Ads

Your social feeds are probably crammed with ads from legal internet marketing “experts” that use FOMO to sell.  They are also full of empty promises.  But let me start with the punchline: legal marketing isn’t easy. Success requires hard work, significant investments, a touch of luck and a well oiled intake machine.

The formula for these ads is very simple:

    1. Promises of riches –  frequently uses “7 or 8-figure practice” verbiage.
    2. Missing Out – Your competitors are already winning at this game.
    3. “It’s Simple” Messaging – “follow these 4 steps”, “cut and paste”.
    4. Proprietary – the “it’s simple” often oblique references a Shiny Tech Object (SHITO?)  or a “secret”.

This type of adverting pulls on the base psychological premise: fear of missing out (FOMO).  “You are missing out on easy money your competitors enjoy because you don’t know my simple secrets.” And if you see these messages enough, subconsciously the messaging enters your brain and becomes part of your internal dialogue. Think this doesn’t work?  Just go back to the last election season to see the ease of manipulating reality through highly targeted, and scientifically optimized messaging.  Or read more on FOMO marketing here.  These ads are scientifically designed to get you to click through, perhaps submit your email address…turning you into another line item in a marketer’s database.

But the truth is, it’s hard. There aren’t simple steps, there’s no easy solution, and the competition is getting worse, not better. Since I got into the internet marketing game back in 2006, I’ve never seen the market so competitive – there are more lawyers chasing SEO, bidding on keywords, faking offices, pushing out engaging video content and building fans on TikTok (hi Kelly!). If you think its simple, boy do I have an email drip campaign for you to sign up for.

FOMO Examples

Want to learn when you are being FOMO’d?  I’ve pulled a few examples to help acquaint you with this genre of advertising so you recognize them when they cross your path on Facebook, Instagram, and even TV….

This one is classic – 1)secrets 2)7-figures, 3)it’s simple 4)others are doing it.

You too, can be like Eddie, quaffing oversized drinks with your girlfriend and traveling the world, if you just knew about New Technology (3D Legal Advertising!!!!) that generates more cases than SEO, PPC and Lead Gen combined! (Except of course, Eddie was never a lawyer, but don’t let those little details creep into your mind….).

And here’s a guy claiming that over 30% of his clients (that he landed with nothing more than powerpoint) have written a perfect, 5 star review.  Really?  Along with the ultimate sad lawyer FOMO imagery… 

In this instance, the “Big Bang” of the legal industry is just three simple steps followed by 164 other attorneys (did I mention you are missing out?)

Some more promises with an unmentioned new client AI technology that strangely didn’t even exist in 2020, but simultaneously was perfected over the past year.  Math anyone?

Here you go lawyers… copy and paste our secret and get on your way to an 8 figure law firm….

 

UPDATE: Just got this new one…. you too could be lounging on a boat with this simple, two step strategy!

Why We Didn’t Send Holiday Gifts

Like most Americans, I’m enjoying putting 2020 firmly in our rearview mirror.  Having said that, last year was particularly kind to Mockingbird – we developed capabilities significantly, (most) of our clients outperformed expectations, and Mockingbird staff upgraded significantly. We ended the year on very solid financial footing. The dissonance of economic calamity for millions of small business owners and their employees coinciding with a soaring stock market has hit me particularly hard this year.  Mockingbird has been among the fortunate.

So in December, instead of sending out a typical Seattle themed gift basket or schwag festooned with the (awesome) Mockingbird logo, we’ve made a donation to a food pantry near each of our largest clients. We did well enough last year that this isn’t just a token gesture and I’m deeply grateful that through our clients, we’re able to make a difference in the lives of many Americans who really need the help right now. Our contribution from snowflakes from Seattle to bubble up economics instead of the trickle down economics; which clearly hasn’t served those in greatest need.

-Conrad

Prediction: Google Screened as Ranking Factor for Google Local.

Google has traditionally and aggressively separated paid from organic.  The firewall between their departments ensures there’s not anti-competitive issues – i.e. spend more money on Google Ads and see your organic rankings skyrocket.  I’ve run into this over and over again with our awesome reps from the Google Premier Partnership program, who advise us and our clients on Google Ads.  These awesome peeps wouldn’t know the difference between an H1 and an Immigration Visa and think NAP is something their kids do after a particularly arduous virtual school day.

My prognostication:  Google’s separation between Search and Advertising may crumble in the near(ish) future.

Look what Erik Beatty spotted this morning in the support drop-down for LSAs: an  “Upgraded GMB Profile” option.

This is very valid useful data that, I would argue, should be used for showing up in the Local Results.  In fact, the prospect of improving what shows up in Local in the legal industry is what I thought the original intention of Google Screened …. removing the spammy crap that litters Local results – non law firms masquerading as law firms, out of state or out of market lawyers faking offices etc.

This would be a major adjustment for Google; breaching a very fine line between organic and paid.  While they’ve been reluctant to cross this rubicon in the past, lawyers should welcome this development as it will kick the bogus garbage out the Local, which filters real prospects through lead selling agencies, extracting a ton of value out of the legal profession with zero added value.

RBG and the Lawyer Mom Owner Conference

It’s 2:00am Saturday morning and I can’t sleep. The massive implications of RBG’s death on my mind. I have a daughter; time to watch On the Basis of Sex with her.

What to do?

This morning is the perfect time to make sure everyone I know is aware of Carolyn Elefant and  Jeena Belil’s Mom Owner Lawyer Summit, a conference dedicated to enterprising female lawyers.  I’ve first met Carolyn back in 2007 and have always referred to her as the Godmother of solo practitioners.  She’s inspirational, entrepreneurial, upfront and delightfully innately nerdy.  She started her law firm in 1993 and has made sharing her experiences to other enterprising lawyers a side gig primarily through her blog MyShingle.

When:  September 30-October 1
Where:  Online!

To me, Carolyn has always seen law firm ownership as the answer to both personal professional fulfillment.  If you have an inkling that there might be more to your profession and your life than the current status quo…. spend two days at this conference.  

This Summit has an entirely female speaker lineup and features some of the amazing women I’ve met during my sojourn in the legal marketing world.

I’ve bought tickets for all of my agency’s female clients and have a few left so if you’d like to attend the Lawyer Owner Mom Virtual Summit as my guest…. just add a comment (your email won’t be public) and I’ll delete it once I’ve sent you a ticket.  And please spread the word… there’s a target of 1,000 attendees and Jeena and Carolyn are not that far off their goal.

Oh, and to bring things back full circle to RBG… please vote. Early.

-Conrad

Spotting The Hallmarks of SEO Balderdash

If you can bring yourself to sit through the entire video here, it’s going to come across as pretty haughty and dismissive. But that was my honest assessment of the crap I was listening to. The micropoint to this post is, “taking selfies in front of local landmarks won’t expand your Local Search results,” but the main point of my post is larger.  Watch (if you can) the entire thing as Jason Brown and I defrock tactics used to make someone look more experienced than they are:

  • Sliver bullet to SEO success
  • Modicum of plausibility
  • Lack of specific examples and data
  • Trappings of authority

And if you start to smell some of that from an “SEO expert”, try doing a little research. Searching for “selfie” on Search Engine Land turns up…well…not much, and nothing in the way of Local Search magic bullets; although there is this interesting 2014 post about a Goolebot selfie at the beach:

Source: SearchEngineLand: https://searchengineland.com/search-pics-google-cardboard-googlebot-beach-matt-cutts-selfie-195404

And if you are a law firm staffer who was sent around the city to take pics of yourself at various local landmarks, overtip your local restaurant and head back to the office. You are wasting your time. Sorry.

Spoiler Alert: this video is just as cringey as public selfies.

 

Is Avvo (coming) Back?

Back in early May, I wrote a post: Avvo in SEO Traffic Free Fall. One of the many questions fielded about this was, may the come back?  The answer was “probably” – from everything I could tell (including Avvo’s pointed “no comment” to the question around what was going on with their traffic), this looked like a one-off SEO penalty, with a sudden and otherwise inexplicable drop in traffic.  Note from that previous article that this was for a select set of high value, head terms; the fall-off in volume was also anecdotally corroborated by numerous attorneys.

I’ve been able to get my mitts on an Avvo email that suggests not only was I correct in the original assessment, but that (possibly) they are at the beginning of a rebound. This is (somewhat) corroborated by a variety of third party reporting systems that sync with the timing from this Avvo data – which shows a hitting the bottom mark sometime in the middle of June.

So here are the data points:

From Avvo

This is the graph circulating Avvo that shows a pretty impressive traffic growth – again, if this is accurate it would support my supposition that this was an SEO penalty (or a major major stupid technical whoopsie, which I doubt would go unsolved for this long).  Note that this graph does not show at all these rankings are for – for all we know its “fuzzy bunny slipper lawyer” or just focused on Lincoln, Nebraska.  Also note that the overall number of terms for which they rank top 3 is still minuscule.  Finally, this graph starts at the beginning of May, which is exactly when I first published my study, which means it conveniently leaves out the cratering that occurred during February and March (read: its built to paint them in a very positive light.).

SEMRush & ahrefs

SEMRush and ahrefs (both spectacularly inaccurate albeit directionally helpful third-party tools) show a traffic turnaround coinciding with the data above from Avvo. Of note, these tools give us a chance to look much further back for historical context and suggest the directory is still a ways off from its former zenith.

But… Ranking Reports

I hate ranking reports, but it was Gyi Tsakalakis’ ranking report of 250 head terms that first tipped me off on the Avvo decline.  So I circled back and the results still aren’t pretty.  While this is a very very very slim sampling of head terms, there seems to have been no movement within this set:

My advice?  Watch closely and as always, monitor success through your own reporting metrics, not your vendors’.