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For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Chris Brencans, CEO of On The Map, Inc., a digital marketing agency located in Miami, FL. Explore the dynamic world of law firm marketing and SEO with Chris. In this conversation, Chris delves into the strategies that propelled his company to $6 million in revenue, emphasizing the power of data-driven content and strategic link-building. Gain valuable insights into the evolving role of AI in SEO and discover how constant problem-solving drives business success. Chris also shares his journey from web development to CEO and offers a glimpse into the future of content creation powered by AI.
Watch the episode now for more insights!
Digital PR campaigns drive a nice authority boost for the site. Align that with ongoing link-building and proper content-writing activites, and your website is set for success.
Hey, hi, everyone. Welcome to your show, E-Coffee with Experts. This is Ranmay here. Today, we have Chris Brencans, the CEO of On the Map Marketing with us. Welcome, Chris, to our show.
Ranmay, what a pleasure being on your show. We’re just missing the coffee. I did have one.
I also have one. Yeah, black glasses. Chris, before we move forward, I’d like you to introduce yourself, talk a bit about your journey and what on the map marketing is all about, and what is your core expertise, and core offerings, and we’ll take it forward from there.
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll give you the main couple of milestones. I got into the agency’s digital marketing world through web development. While being in the States, I was just married, but I’m from Europe, so I was in the process of receiving my green card. So my wife and I started a web development business. I had a friend in Latvia who was a developer. I’m from Rega, Latvia. And we started a company. And I said, Hey, I’ll bring you the clients and you build the websites in Latvia. He was the reason I got into digital marketing. I had a psychology degree and I wanted to be a sports agent because I played basketball myself in college. That’s how I came to the States. Next thing, he and I were pretty deep into this thing. I’m generating clients. He’s building the sites, and learning different aspects of it. I found I got my green card and worked with a social media agency for a little bit. He was involved in helping them with some web development work. Then I found On The Map Marketing, they needed a website project manager and seemed like a perfect fit for me. So I came on board to get rid of Red Casperis Milworks, who was my partner in the initial business.
Now he’s the CTO and I’m CEO. That happened eight years ago. During the journey, I built a really good relationship with the Company Founder, Rick Hopkins. He and I had a great synergy and he trusted me. The whole core of our working format was, Hey, what’s the biggest problem? Let’s go solve it. When I joined the company, my biggest problem was web development. We figured out the necessary steps for that. And then I got deeper into SEO processes and further sales. And then next step was SEO being a CEO. A little bit about the map itself, hence the name on the map. We are a local search marketing agency. We focus heavily on verticals, where local search is bread and butter for them, hence law firms being one, home services, also meds, spas, dental industry. But primarily, about 70 % of our revenue comes from our law firm marketing. And that’s where we spend a lot of time and where we do a lot of advertising and thought leadership. We speak on different types of podcasts and generate content. We love law firm marketing. It’s a highly competitive space. One of the highest-ever recorded clicks was for a mesothelioma attorney, which was roughly around $800 per click.
I might be a little bit off and those numbers might be different now, but just think about the fact. $800 per click on average personal injury law, keywords cost around $300, $400 just for one click. So when those are the numbers for AdWords Play, SEO comes also at a very high price point and with very high competition. And that’s where we thrive. That’s the product I developed together with Rick and fell in love with that. So I enjoyed that space. And we’re doing the same also in other verticals like Home Services. Similar story, clicks are not as expensive, but the return on leads can be huge. Imagine someone buying services to build a house in the US that’s multi-million dollars in some cases. So that’s our story. Our service offering is SEO PPC, web development, and deep tech knowledge. Hence my CTO, Casper Smallworks, is an unbelievable, full-stack developer. So we’re very passionate on all ends. I’m just going off here. I think that gives you a good glimpse. Maybe just a few comments on the site itself, and how we’ve grown. The company has been around for 12 years. Pre-covid, we were around the three million mark. That’s when I shifted into sales and CEO role.
Then when being in the sales and CEO role and just rolling out our enterprise SEO services, we’ve gone from the three million pre-COVID to the six million mark right now, and we’re just getting started.
Yeah, I’m sure. But yeah, quite a journey, I must say, Chris. And from being a project manager to now being the CEO of the company and this transition from web design to the world of CEO and then, like you mentioned, law firm marketing. How did this happen? This must not have happened overnight. Was this a conscious decision, by design, by strategy? How did this happen?
Not at all. I wish I would have started learning SEO when I got in. When Caesars and I, when we had started our company, I thought I might be further along. I don’t know. No regrets. But really, it was this idea of focusing on the biggest problem within the company and solving that. It wasn’t conscious, Oh, now I’m going to go learn SEO. Oh, now I’m going to focus on this shiny thing. It was more like, What is the biggest issue right now where I can invest my time in and resolve that? And Rick and I would make that decision, and then I would go and come up with plans for that. I had to wear a lot of hats, It’s one of those double-edged swords to say you should specialize in one thing, but when you understand different concepts, it benefits you to be on the medium expert level within multiple dimensions.
And in terms of revenue, as you mentioned, you have overseen this group to $6 million now. Can you delve into the strategies or some pivotal takeoffs that these burning entrepreneurs who are in the digital marketing space can benefit from in terms of whether they are also willing to go there and expand that company?
Absolutely. To us, a big factor was changing our product to a much higher price point product. We’re selling $600 to $1,000 a month SEO packages and month-to-month contracts, and we shifted to a lot higher retainers and 12-month, six-month contracts. So focusing on that, that changed the sales trajectory. There were longer sales cycles, but these types of clients were staying with us a lot longer. So our retention and residuals were more long-term cycles rather than just churn and burn. Let’s bring in new clients and they don’t last long, which is a false premise for building a business. So that was a big factor. And then the second interesting one we started heavily working on our SEO. And that happened already four years ago, a little bit before COVID. We started launching a lot of different types of vertical pages that no one had caught up on. Let’s say, roofing SEO had no search volume. We were like, Let’s launch it anyway. And we were ranked, and then gradually you start other people getting into it. So I think identifying what is your vertical and then developing content within that vertical and positioning yourself as an expert, talking about your different case studies, resonates a lot with SEO because you’re creating content around the field you’re an expert in.
So that would be my suggestion to some other aspiring agency owners. Now, granted, some of these keywords are highly competitive. Our website, DR, is 73. So it’s going to be a tough battle. But I think the search space is so broad. There are always some creative ways you can break into it, but you just need to start taking the steps to develop some form of inbound lead mechanism. Without that, it’s going to be hard. And it’s worth mentioning also that before that, our company when we got to about three, close to four million mark, we had a really big sales team that would call probably every possible attorney in America and push them our service. It was a highly refined machine. The sales director of the company was Kerry Game. He did an amazing job getting us to that place. And then COVID came and it was really hard to continue outbound sales, so we have to restructure and take a new direction. And that was a blessing in disguise for us.
Yeah, absolutely. High ticket size clients, after you have to set the initial waters and as you are ensuring that there is no leaking bucket in terms of the operational side of things that you have, that can affect you scary. Exactly. We’re going to have very strong processes around to ensure that you not only have high ticket size but also that you stick around for that long.
If they’re not staying, it’s going to hurt.
Yeah. I can relate to the roofing example that you gave before four or five years ago. I can relate to that. Chris, you also have your podcast, and your law firms on the map, which has gained quite a significant following. Could you share the inspiration behind starting it and how it aligns with your mission to help law firms grow?
The inspiration is just everyday conversations. I love meeting other marketers, law firm owners, and operators, and just hearing their success stories. There aren’t that many successful law firm marketing campaigns and the amount of people that have figured it out. I think each one of those conversations has some nugget that another person can learn from who hasn’t figured it out. And just like running a successful business, it’s exciting to go a little deeper into that and talk about successful law firms. My goal was to bring these voices through the lens of On The Map marketing through the people of our company and just have great conversations. And within these conversations, share that knowledge with my audience and on top of that, learn something myself. The goal is to see each conversation as, Oh, One Nugget. Oh, we were going to try this. We’re talking about local screen ads, or we’re talking about the latest link-building strategies for law firms. There’s a diamond dozen of these ideas, AI, and it just never stops. There’s so much movement within the SEO industry, within the search engine marketing industry, that having this ongoing cadence of conversation about what’s working, and here’s the case study of that person or that law firm, I think it’s great to open up that dimension and continue populating that information.
Yeah, absolutely. As you mentioned AI, I could not help myself from asking. We are all out in the storm for the last six months or so. We all are trying to figure out the way forward, exciting times for sure. And people getting scared to know people learning the tech, it has only gotten better in the last quarter or so. But yeah, what is your take? Where are we headed? And how much do you use it at On The Map?
I was just on a podcast discussing this. I think too many people are saying AI is bad. You shouldn’t use it for your content. But then no one’s talking about the fact that content-writing agencies are dying right now.
It’s a real situation. Ward agents recently lost $2 million in their revenue or something bizarre. There are a lot of content-writing agencies that are losing business. And where was this business coming from? It’s coming from affiliate SEOs, brilliant people who are investing their own money in content writing. And if they’re saying, Hey, I don’t need to invest that much money in writers because now I have these tools that can substitute a lot of my processes. We can’t just sit here and say, Oh, in law for marketing, it doesn’t work. That’s just people protecting their kind and an idea and maybe their business if they are in the content writing business. I say you need to test it and only then you can talk about it. Have you tested it to say you get penalized or roll out your test sites? We’re building an all-star law firm SEO team right now. We brought on some really impressive talent, and we’re going to be testing a lot of things. We’re talking about building content plans of 250,000 words, putting them on expired domains, and just rolling them as complete test sites. I love affiliate SEO, and I want to bring that energy and those types of ideas to law firm SEO where everything has to be by the book.
But at the same time, the tests we’ve done with some clients and by the way, we ask our clients, Hey, are you open to AI testing? Like, you sign off on this. We’re on the same page, 100 % transparency. And clients like, I want you to test this because my idea behind this is, let’s say you invest $5,000 in SEO, we get you seven backlinks and let’s say 10,000 words of content. What if for the same amount of money, I can get you seven backlinks, but we roll out 30,000 words of content? Who’s going to be moving faster in Serp? You are the competitor. Of course, the content can be subpar, but there’s a lot of supporting content. There’s a lot of filler content that needs to be done just to build a topical authority. So if that is properly AI-written and human-edited, what is the issue with that? What is the issue with that? I’m just providing more value for my customer, and we’re being more competitive in the Serp for whatever keywords we’re going after. It’s a battle in the SERP, and that’s where we stand. We need to test this.
We don’t want to risk our clients. It’s all about their ROI. But same time, we can’t be oblivious to this and just put a stamp saying, No, it doesn’t work, when you haven’t even tried that. And I feel like a lot of people are putting just a stamp saying, Oh, it doesn’t work, but they haven’t truly tested it to be even able to say that.
Yeah, absolutely. I see the platforms who are giving the AI platforms are themselves testing it day in, and day out. So it’s only fair that we also test and see for ourselves whether it’s working or not, rather than jumping to a conclusion. Yeah, it’s not a deliverable product. It’s not a final product for sure. But like you mentioned, very critical human-edited content. AI gives you that headstart to see time and gives you those facts. If it is human-edited, then I don’t see any harm there, and no chance of getting it as well. We just said, You need to test that. Again, a very valid point when you said the client should be on page with that before you go ahead and do that with them. If you get the results, then why not, On the same budget, you’ll be showing them results way better than what it was earlier, so no harm done.
I just want my clients to win. That’s the bottom line.
Yeah, absolutely. I get that you have clients who are ready to test that. That’s a blessing.
You’ll be surprised how competitive attorneys are. Some attorneys know things about SEO before the average SEO even knows. And that’s an ideal customer for us because they appreciate the equity they’re building with their website. And they’re almost like affiliate SEOs that have their sites generating money. They think of their website or their Google business profile as like, This is my equity that’s bringing me money. In personal injury cases, these can be 10 million plus dollar settlements. It’s serious money. There are some websites like, I don’t know if you heard of Morgan, for the people that drive insane amounts of traffic. They have rankings all over the nation. John Morgan himself is extremely competitive. He constantly goes into new markets and his marketing strategies are omnichannel. It’s traditional marketing, social marketing, SEO, and PPC. That’s who you’re up against.
Yeah, absolutely. You can imagine. Lawful marketing can be tricky and then you would have to have clients across the country and regions. How do you divide and strategy in terms of being able to rank them at a local, or national level? How do you feel the strategy is different from other different niches, especially when we compare them to law marketing?
I would say the biggest difference is the content writing specifics, because if you’ve never worked on a law firm SEO campaign, first you just need to learn the fundamentals of different law practices. There’s personal injury, family, criminal. And then within each, it’s almost like a sub-niche within the law firm marketing. So then you need to specialize within that sub-niche because then you need to build out the topical expertise within, let’s say, if it’s family law, we have to talk about all categories of family law. So divorce, adoption, child abuse, or that’s more criminal. But there are so many aspects that it goes into. And then you need to provide answers to potential prospects within those specific categories. So that’s what. If you took on the campaign and you don’t realize that, and you’re like, Oh, family law. Maybe I should throw up a page on criminal law. This attorney might eat you alive because what are you doing? You don’t understand my business. And then other side to that is from link-building perspectives. You have to identify what are law-related directories where your clients should appear. And that’s just a fundamental level. Then you have to go deeper and figure out how can you build your client as an expert within some other high authority website.
Can regular guest posts suffice in this case? If you’re in some highly metropolitan area, they might need to become writers of some local newspaper and have their own column. There are so many aspects that come into play, especially when you look at the competition. What are they doing? And will you be able to match that frequency of marketing activities? But yeah, I think that’s the main factor. The same applies to other industries. Home services, also have their types of directories and content specifications. So as long as you’re able to figure those aspects out, you’ll have a pretty solid foundation to be successful.
Yeah, absolutely. And then since you mentioned backlinks, what is your take on a guest booth? Were these initiatives? What is your take on handle links as well? I’d be glad to hear that from you.
It’s a great question. It differs from how competitive the areas are. There are areas, let’s say, location-wise, and you’re a bankruptcy attorney, you might be fine just getting some guest posts and making sure all your regular directory links are there. But if you go to some highly competitive areas like Houston Personal Injury Law, you better be prepared to get some high authority links from news sites. Google is getting a lot smarter and it sees who the attorneys appear on the news. So if you can be an attorney who appears on the news and gives commentary on certain noteworthy events, that’s going to put you apart from just an average attorney trying to break into page one. We have a mix of strategies when it comes to link building. We also do guest posting within the law of niche, making sure that the category aligns properly with our attorney’s experience. As far as niche edits, we don’t exercise as much.
We’re cautious with them, depending on what could be the potential insertion. If there is great relevance, then yeah, we’ll evaluate those. And something that is becoming a lot more popular is niche edits that drive traffic, getting the edit on the page with traffic. So that’s something that’s being tested. Hero links, I have mixed feelings about them. There’s a period where we’re actively building them. Didn’t die down just because everyone was trying to get those hero links. And the results, I haven’t seen huge impacts from them, but again, it’s a mix of activities that drives the real results. Things that have been a little more successful for us when it comes to high authority links like digital PR campaigns. I will agree, those drive a nice authority boost for the site itself. And then if you align that with ongoing link-building and proper content-writing activities, your website is set for success.
Yeah, absolutely. Data-driven content can itself be a powerful link-building asset. As per you, how can law firms with access to legal insights leverage data create compelling content that naturally attracts those high-authority backlinks?
Yeah. And how do we get them? It comes down to we don’t have an in-house digital PR department yet. That’s something I aspire to develop. So we work with some reputable companies in the space, and they’re just extremely smart people that build these unique content pieces. They handle all the work. They do the outreach, and they’re able to lay in the links. Really, for us, the job is more about picking the right partners and making sure they execute on a timely basis and align strategically with the respective practice areas for those attorneys.
Great, Chris. I really can’t thank you enough for taking out time and do this with us. But before we let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.
All right, let’s do it.
All right. Your last Google search. You can check your system. It’s an open book. Don’t worry.
Okay, let me see. I’m going to go to my history. I do check a lot of rankings. Okay, this is going to sound super egoistic, but there’s a reason for it. It was my name, Chris Brencans, and Chris Brencans. I recently had one on my podcast, it’s not published yet, but there’s a company called CaliQ, that focuses on developing your brand, Serp. So I’ve been doing that and appearing on podcasts. So I keep constantly checking what my brand, Serp, looks like. Right before our podcast, I was checking what my brand, Serp, looks like. It’s getting better. And there are a couple of tricks I need to do as well. I need to launch my website so then a knowledge graph can be connected to my podcast appearances and other things. There you go. That’s a good question. I like that.
Wait. Okay, so let’s move out of this work zone. Who is your celebrity crush?
Celebrity crush? Yeah. That was an unexpected one.
We are focusing on you and Nick Bending on this already.
Wait, like a celebrity? Like any type of celebrity? Yeah. Probably, I’d say, Jessica Alba.
Lovely. What is your favorite quote?
If you have it. My favorite quote? Yes. It will be by Travis Kalinic. I don’t know how official this quote is, but his whole concept was business is constant problem-solving, and that’s really what it is. And that’s how I see it and my mantra. It’s not the shiny thing. It’s what is the biggest problem I need to solve right now in the business? Yes.
Okay, great. Let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, what genre would it be? I know you played basketball, but yeah.
It would be one of those like a story, like crazy company stories, like Netflix is redoing them on Uber and other companies. So it’s in the making. It’s going to be rebuilding a $100 million search, local search marketing empire.
I’m sure. Sooner than later. Okay, we’re not grill you any further. The last one, what did you do with your first paycheck? First paycheck ever.
That was actually from playing basketball. We won third place in a country, something in Latvia, and everyone got bonus checks. I took my family out for sushi. A nice sushi lunch.
Lovely. Great there, Chris. It was lovely hosting you and I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot from the insights you shared today. I appreciate your time, man. Thank you.
All right. Thank you, Ranmay. Thanks.
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