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Cracking the Code of High-Quality Backlinks: A Law Firm SEO Blueprint

In Conversation with Bobby Steinbach

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Bobby Steinbach, Founding Partner of MeanPug Digital, an ROI-driven agency located in Brooklyn, New York. Explore the dynamic world of law firm marketing with Bobby, as he unveils insightful strategies—from crafting compelling website content tailored to legal practice types to mastering the art of high-quality backlinks. Dive into the future of AI in law firm operations, where Bobby discusses the transformative impact of no-code platforms and the evolving role of programmers in an era of rapid technological advancement. Join us for a riveting conversation on the challenges and opportunities reshaping the digital landscape for legal professionals.

Generating inbound referrals is a crucial part of the acquisition strategy for law firms, fitting nicely into short, mid, and long-term plans.

Bobby Steinbach
Founding Partner of MeanPug Digital

Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to your show, E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here, your host for today’s episode. Today we have Bobby, who is the Founding Partner at MeanPug Digital with us. Hey, Bobby.

Hey, Ranmay. Thanks for having me.

Great. Before we move forward and pick your brains on SEO, PPC for law firms, and marketing, why don’t you talk us through your journey so far and how did you start MeanPug Digital? How have you been on the journey so far?

Yeah, happy to. I started MeanPug with my Co-Founder Andrew three and a half years, a little more than that, about four years ago now, during the height of the pandemic, so well timed. We have been working together for close to 10 years at this point. So about 10 years ago, I was the first engineer and Andrew was the first paid digital advertiser at a startup in the city doing secondary ticket sales. We scaled that to just about 30 people before exiting and making our way over to Morgan & Morgan, where I was director of engineering, Andrew was director of paid digital advertising, and we got to see basically from the inside what it takes to build a successful legal brand. We did that for three and a half years and then branched off to create MeanPug in February 2020. That’s the founding genesis of our legal marketing agency.

Brilliant timing, like you said. Bobby, law firm marketing is so unique to itself in terms of how different is it from working with the other niches out there. You have a niche down to just doing law firm marketing end-to-end. With a law firm, the website is the first impression if someone is seeking any legal support. So what considerations are crucial in terms of designing and developing a website for a law firm that not only looks impressive but also converts visitors into clients? And as you all know, content also plays an important role in that. So what is your overall take or how do you strategize developing and designing a website for a law firm?

Yeah, this is dependent on the case type that a firm practices in. There are just certain patterns that work for certain firms. If you’re a contingency fee firm, like a personal injury firm, it’s really important to have free, unless we win, tight messaging all over the site, because that’s what is important to that type of client. And one of your core key differentiators is a no-risk model for your potential clients. That’s not the same as somebody who’s doing transactional law. In transactional law, you want to emphasize your experience and your history of successful results. So it’s a very different set of messaging that’s going to apply depending on the firm practice type. That said, there’s always a core set of fundamentals that are going to be important for law firm website design. At the end of the day, it’s all about eating with Google, where constantly hearing this, it’s becoming more and more important that you’re emphasizing your experience, your expertise, your authority, and your trustworthiness, and that needs to come through in the website design and content.

Content for law firms and their website is so crucial because you need to have an understanding of the industry to put in that content that resonates with the audience. How do you strategize this content for law firm marketing? In fact, in law firms, there are different categories as you mentioned. What is your strategy for building the correct content for the law firms that you work with?

Yeah, I think it all starts with the content types. You have a different set of keywords and intents that you’re targeting for blog posts versus what you’re targeting for your testimonial pages versus what you’re targeting for your practice areas. For a law firm, the practice areas are like your product pages. That needs to be your convincing pages. Why should somebody who’s searching for a lawyer choose you? So if somebody searches car accident lawyer, you are probably targeting that with your car accident lawyer practice area page. That page needs to be CTA-heavy. It needs to have testimonials. It needs to convince the user above the fold why they should potentially convert. That’s not the same as your blog post, which might be about the five laws you need to know in 2023 or 2024 if you’ve been in a car accident. That’s somebody who’s at a different stage in the buyer funnel, the user journey. The person reading is more looking for information, looking to understand a concept, so the content needs to reflect that.

Absolutely. Very valid point. A very interesting one which you mentioned, having testimonials. Reviews play such an important role that you need to be 100% sure about whom you’re approaching when someone, let’s say, getting into a personal injury situation, really wants support from someone whom he or she feels has been tried and tested by others in such a situation. That particular law firm had pulled them out of such a situation in the way they wanted themselves to be. So how do you work around this situation for your clients in terms of having those reviews? And how does the mechanism work or do you make them work for your law firm clients?

As in how do we help our clients get reviews, in the case, lifecycle, or more around how do we show it on the front end?

Both sides of it. How do you ensure that someone has received a good service from your client? Get those reviews. How do you then present it? Ensure that it’s right there. And if you use any software at the backend to capture those reviews and stuff or send those messages, I would appreciate it if you could share those tricks.

Got it. Okay, yeah. Several review platforms facilitate the process of gathering user reviews. We’re pretty partial to YES. We like it. But there’s also like BirdEye and I’m sure there’s a bunch of others that integrate. Those are the two that are coming to my head right now, YES and BirdEye. But these platforms, at the end of the day, they’re all serve the same purpose, to make it easy for users to leave reviews across the platforms that matter to you. That’s half of the problem. The other half of the problem is how to know when to prompt the user for review. Do you want to prompt the user for review when you’ve turned down their case? Probably not. That’s probably a long time to do that. So the right time to do that is you’ve just gotten them a successful result. That’s probably the right time to do something like that. So that’s where what you mentioned earlier, folding this into CRM and the case lifecycle becomes important, and figuring out those operational processes for triggering these types of prompts for review at the right point in that case lifecycle all lives on that CRM side.

Right, lovely. For law firms, while we have been in the space for quite some time now, you understand the importance of referrals. It becomes so crucial for law firms to get into the travel business and repeat or repeat business for that matter if it is in a B2B environment. So how do you ensure? How do you ensure, how do you balance those networks and ensure that you beat business or word-of-mouth spits out?

Yeah, good question. That’s one of the core points that we always bring up in our conversations with potential clients and clients you need to think about your acquisition strategies for new clients in three top-level buckets, similar to the way you would think about traditional investment strategy. You’ve got your short-term, your mid-term, your long-term strategy. Your short-term strategy is going to be your PPC and your other paid campaigns. These are things you spend money on today, you’re seeing results tomorrow, but you’re also building on sand. If you stop spending tomorrow, you’re not getting clients tomorrow. So that’s bucket one. Bucket three is not bucket two, but bucket three is that eight to 12-plus-month time horizon, which is going to be a brand strategy, organic. These are things that take time to grow, but once they do, you’ve got momentum on your side and you could stop spending tomorrow and continue to see returns long term, right? Bucket two is where we put referral networks. So building out your referral strategy and generating inbound referrals, is going to be in the three to six-month range for return on investment. You start building those relationships today, you’re going to get your first cases from those partners in three months, four months, five months, six months.

When they get a client who comes to them saying I have this issue and it’s not something that they can help with. For us, it’s a really important part of the acquisition strategy for law firms, and it fits nicely into that bucketing strategy.

In this particular niche, and I know so much about referral stack, you need to build in some strategy to capture the benefits that you probably would want to reap from the earlier successful cases that you worked on. Great. While moving on with law firm marketing, backlinks, like we were discussing earlier, become a crucial factor in terms of having your firm, and your brand out there wherein the audiences are looking out for such solutions. Acquiring high-quality backlinks is crucial in SEO overall. Still, in law firm marketing it becomes so much more crucial and it is too much more of an exhaustive process to do so to get those high-quality, genuine backlinks. What is your strategy for placing your clients right up there and on those top domains like your brands would want themselves to be placed?

Yeah. At the end of the day, there’s no substitution for high-quality backlinks for traditional PR. If you are doing things that are game-change, being groundbreaking, getting crazy results, and being featured in Netflix documentaries, then that’s going to be the easiest path for placement of high-quality backlinks, the highest quality backlinks. But most of us don’t have that privilege or whatever. That’s true. That’s not standard that if you’re specializing in motor vehicle accidents in Kansas, you’re also going to be seeing cases that are so groundbreaking that they’re going to result in interest for you to be featured in a Netflix documentary. So it’s for those people there has got to be a system that can generate high-quality backlinks that might not be at the level of The New York Times, but they are creating meaningful needle movers. And for that, typically our approach relies on guest posting. So having relationships with high-quality publishers where we’re able to post on their behalf and create those types of organic backlinks, is always the best. And then second to that is just good old outreach. Reaching out to publishers, finding opportunities where content that we’re building is relevant and viable, and then trying to build those backlinks to those pages.

You did mention about guest posts, Bobby. So what is your take on the argument, which has been always there for decades now about guest posts versus niche edits? What is your strategy around it? Which one do you feel is more effective?

We love guest posting because it gives us this pseudo-permanent equity in a sense. We don’t have ownership over this thing, but we certainly have more ownership than doing outreach to 1,000 publications to get a bad thing. So we like guest posting. It’s always been a long-term strategy for us.

You mentioned content as well. Last year around this time, we were all in this dilemma when ChatGPT and the AI content and stuff hit us. And it has been a lot of learning on the way since the last 65 days or so. What is your take on AI in general? But into our industry. And exciting times are here for sure, and it has been a roller coaster ride so far. But what do you think? Where are we headed with all of this?

Yeah, that is such a good, hard question because I think it is so hard to predict where this goes. Right now, I’m learning something new every day with AI and prompt engineering and understanding how to roll content generation into our agency processes. It’s not at a point where we are pressing plight and getting out content and putting it on the client site. I don’t know if it’ll ever be at that point, but it’s certainly not now. But there are tons of really cool hacks that we’re seeing come out. Here’s one that I saw maybe two weeks ago, which was just this isn’t directly using AI to create content as much as it is just a hack that is piggybacking on OpenAI as a whole. So ChatGPT, or sorry, OpenAI released the GPT market or whatever, maybe a month ago. And so anybody could go and create their own GPT on the market. What you can do is you can create a GPT, and you can use ChatGPT to fill in all the boilerplate for it. So you can create your GPT, make it niche to your industry, and fill in all that information. At the tail end, you can create, as a publisher option, who is publishing this.

And you can use your website link. So you can get a backlink from OpenAI to do the following link with a 92DR. So just like a cool little hack that is piggybacking on the explosion of OpenAI and ChatGPT and what have you.

Absolutely. A very valid point that you mentioned, you are still not there at least. So, Aaron, you can pick up the content and put it on a client’s website or any way away for that matter because you still have to humanize whatever it throws at you. At the end of it, it is not a deliverable product by any fast edge of imagination until now, at least where are we right now? I know it’s going to get better, for sure, but it’s going to take its own sweet time before it reaches that point. We still have to humanize it. A lot of folks feared for their jobs last December around the year, January, people who have, on the other side of it, people have gotten a knack for using AI tools, have landed up at high paying jobs and what they were earlier. If you see that people getting scared for their jobs, at one point, to those people who have started using it, used it as a weapon, and three months, six months down the line, those same folks are hiking up there asking whatever salary, pay hikes, whatever.

Have you seen the newest, I know the post, it was just on Hacker News this morning about Gemini dominating at some competitive programming competitions recently. The new Gemini model, that’s scary as a programmer. Absolutely.

I was not scared about the content side of things per se, but the coding side of things was it was quite revolutionary from the perspective that I did take away quite a few jobs that I’m aware of in terms of doing that elementary level of coding, people passing out from just colleges, doing JavaScript coding and stuff. That phase it was there. But yeah, it is scary like you said. I cannot deny that.

I think the big scary thing is when you combine this explodes. It’s cool. There’s still going to be a need for programmers, but the job is going to change. With the explosion of no-code platforms with AI, we’re very close to the point where you have a big barrier to entry with no-code if it’s still code. At the end of the day, no code is code. You still have to understand programming and systems and how things pull together for you to know code successfully. With AI, you don’t even need that. You could just have AI guide your no-code. So when you run into issues, you lean on AI, AI helps you, and complete non-programmers can create viable systems.

Yeah, absolutely. That is what I meant. Programming was in itself a specialist job, and getting my coding in itself, I’m sure you would have gone through the process of four years of a degree course to start your coding journey or you would have any certification courses and all of that. But right now, anyone can just code. And if you go 10 years back when we all started about 15 years back, it’s such a difficult as well as a niche, which was being looked at as only a techie can do it on time which is no more there. That thing in the market is blown away. I have seen founders who do not have any tech background whatsoever and doing stuff to save whatever their resources, cost, whatever. They’re coming up with viable solutions using these AI platforms. That way, if you look at it, it is a lifesaver for them to save on that money and do a bit of stuff on their own.

But the question is, do you see that resulting in bad software to come? If you look forward 10 years and more people are building with AI and without the dev and what have you, is it going to result in untested software that’s just even bugier than we’ve seen?

Absolutely. That is the scariest part of it. I’m just worried about it, We are techies. I’m just worried about the fact that you are surrounded by platforms or software, which has not been tested that they are built in such a manner that the testing and everything has not been up to the mark, the way it should have been, the way it was earlier. A lot of these things used to happen. Imagine a lot of products not passing through the vetting of the quality process, and then a lot of coders spending so many months and so much time on building a single product. I remember we were building this email verification tool. It took us quite some time to do that, and we had a good amount of resources to do all those tests. AI was not there to help us do those tests and stuff, but it takes a lot to build a product and build a system as I said. That could be scary. I’d accept that.

Yeah. But I think there are also solutions to all those scares. If you’re scared about untested software, AI might then step in and make it easier to test.

Yeah. I think it’s like a problem that’s like a recursive problem solver. It’ll solve itself.

Yeah. It’s there to stay for sure. Let’s see how it unfolds. What I feel is that we are at the tip of the iceberg and we haven’t even understood 5, 10% of what it’s going to be and some time from now. Let’s see. Bobby, it has been a brilliant conversation, but before I let you go, since we got hold of you finally, I’d love to play a rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Yeah, let’s do it.

All right, your last Google search.

What was my last Google search? My last Google search was a ChatGPT prompt hack.

All right. And what did you do with your first paycheck, Bobby? First paycheck of your life?

I was moving out to Vegas. I guess I probably furnished my apartment.

All right, moving on. Your celebrity crush.

Celebrity crush? Jennifer Lawrence.

Okay, let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, Bobby, what genre would it be?

What genre would it be? Horror.

Okay, I’ll not grill you any further. This is the last one here. I cannot resist asking you this one. What’s that thing that you like about our industry or your job, your office? What is that one thing that you speak up about?

I love being able to build systems and build organizational culture and processes. And for me, it’s just awesome seeing things grow. I’ve always been an engineer who wasn’t amazing with math. I’ve never been a super technical engineer. My strength has always been in processes and systems. And so extending that not just in what we do directly for clients and our builds and implementation, but also extending that to the organization and growing people has been really rewarding for me. Lovely.

Great job, Bobby. Thank you so much for taking your time and doing this with us. Appreciate it. You have a great Christmas and New Year coming up, man.

Thanks, Ranmay. This was great. It’s good to chat.

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