BluShark Digital 0:00
Welcome to the SEO Insider with your host, Seth Price, founder of BluShark taking you inside the world of legal marketing and all things digital.
Seth Price 0:10
Welcome, everyone. We are so excited to be here today with Kristi of the Kristi Jane agency. Welcome. Kristi has been in the industry for decades behind the scenes doing all sorts of amazing work, which we’re about to hear about. And then more recently has pivoted to a much more forward-facing agency as well as a really exciting venture in the legal space – which is near and dear to my heart since I dance between the SEO world and the legal world. So Kristi, tell us, how did you get here because I’ve seen your name for years, but never gotten to spend any time with you until recently?
Kristi Hagen 0:49
Ah yeah, so I kind of landed in the perfect position really young. I was a research analyst, trainer, writer, and everything over at Search Engine news. My job was to watch exactly what the search engines did, explain it to somebody in a simple, you know, simple to understand way. And then teach people how to make money with it. And the people that I was teaching or anyone from business owners just enough to know whether or not they’re getting ripped off by the marketing agency or not. And also agency owners, and you know, just single SEO people, so they could get ahead of their competition. So I started out really behind-the-scenes, crunching data, which is my joy in so many ways. And then I spent a lot of years just doing training classes and things like that. A couple years ago, I got kind of pushed forward. I decided I was tired of helping people understand their marketing, and I wanted to really get in there and sink my teeth into it and do it myself. So… And also it was kind of serendipitous, because I started working with Patrick Anderson, and with Pillman those guys over there. And I was realising how the legal industry was so underserved by marketers in general; and there’s some really good agencies out there, but there was a lot of opportunity. So I launched Kristi Jane and I’ve been just running ever since.
Seth Price 2:18
Cool. Let’s take you back a little bit. So when you first started out, who were the, you know, besides your own stuff, of the different online periodicals, did you love… What were the must-read, must-watch for you.
Kristi Hagen 2:33
That’s hard I mean, that’s hard because, you know, I’m 20 years in shockingly. And I mean, my RSS feed of everything that I would… I would read like more than 1000 pieces of content a month in order to publish my content for my readers for search engine news. We published once a month, it was online trade magazine. But it’s like all the big guys, but really wasn’t like Search Engine Journal, and you know, everybody in those kinds of spaces. But also what I realised is: you find more valuable real world information from tiny little spots where somebody is just making a net, you know, they’re suddenly they’re competitive in a really tight industry, and just watching what they’re doing. And that’s really what I specialised in. When we did our training courses, we did trading courses online training courses for more than 10 years before I left Planet Ocean. And I was really good at finding people who were in the industry, any industry, and were making money doing something that related to marketing, any of it. And then saying, “hey, I really want you to teach this class” and like “I’m not a teacher,” and I’m like, “It’s okay, I’ll help you.” And so that was really what I did behind the scenes is take people who are making money online and get them to show me what they were doing. And that’s how my team was kind of formed. I’ve been working with people who are making money and being very successful. And I was like, “Hey, you guys want to start an agency with me?”
Seth Price 4:11
Well, that’s sort of interesting, because, you know, I’ve been through the process. I probably started about eight years ago, similarly, I was speaking because I was too cheap to pay for conferences, and then, “hey, I have a widget to sell.” And like I had the greatest sort of opening, which is “I’ve done it for myself, let me help you do it for you.” It was really fascinating because it felt like it was– for me– a snapshot to a moment back when you know, a handful of clients. You know, there’s there are things that get along and as you start to scale… It’s fascinating/curious because you’re at that inflection point where you’re going from knowing every client really well to “man I need other people touching this to can I be forward facing to the client, as well as doing quality control, as well as being the innovator, research and development.” Talk to me about that process; because… Right now, you know, I’m at the point where my issues are like mid level manager issues and like I have department heads, that’s one thing, but which is sort of where you’re probably getting to right now. But then it’s like, okay, well, each department, I can only have so many direct reports and making sure that you have quality control seeping down. So talk to me about the the place you are in life, at least agency-wise right now. And I think it’d be very sort of interesting for a lot of our audience members who are trying to build their own agencies.
Kristi Hagen 5:30
So with my agency, I’ve taken a very maybe unpopular approach. Because when I first launched, if anyone is like, “how big will you get? How fast?” Because I had a reputation already for no-nonsense, really digging in. I’m never vouching for a strategy that I couldn’t prove with data worked. And I had an audience who were used to reading what I was writing and listening to my podcast and doing all this stuff. So I left a pretty hungry audience behind. And so they thought I was just going to blaze a trail and, you know, a create this giant agency overnight. And I was very reluctant to do that. Because what I had seen for so many years, is what happens when agencies get too big. Because you get really brilliant marketers because it really takes the right kind of mind to come up with all of these different ideas and strategies, and let’s try this something new. And then they start to get bigger, like you’re saying, and then you lose the quality control, because it’s just what you do. And I always think back to that book, ‘Good to Great,’ right, you have to decide how big you want to get and for, for my team… I mean, I sat down with them very clearly in the beginning and said, “how big do we want to get?” Because really, we get to decide where our ceiling is. And we decided that we had a ceiling and we didn’t want to get so busy. We have a certain number of team members we want to have, and certain number of clients that we want to have. And we want to keep those clients to keep us innovative and creative and also keep the quality control really high. But that wasn’t… you know, being a giant marketing agency isn’t our “why” you could say. So our “why” was creating. We’re builders, and that’s just who we are. We’re entrepreneurs. And so we want the agency because clients are so and we don’t just work with attorneys, which is also really important. We work with all kinds of different industries. We have a family-owned, you know, tree trimming and landscape business client. We have bacteriophage facial surgeons, we have dentists, like just the whole gambit, because different industries are doing different things that can then be applied to the competitive industry. So it’s very surprising what you can see. What’s normal in say, custom shed building industry and you think how can we take this and tweak it so that it can work for our personal injury attorneys, you know, that kind of thing. So my team are our builders, first and foremost, and you know, what clients bring is problems, problems that need answers. And so we want to be able to build technology solutions that serve our industries. And that is the other part of our business. So I would say we’re about half of the marketing agency and half of a, you know, a development technologies company.
Seth Price 8:30
Okay, so one of the things that, you know, I have had some epiphanies on recently… It was interesting, I saw you at a conference, a lot of smaller law firms, a few locals, but a lot of smaller law firms was… I remember when I started the agency, I ended up with a client that came from like one of the legacy agencies like, “wow, how could this person be coming to me when this person they work with is really good, right?” And the thing that I realised is they had a legacy contract of a couple $1,000. And I know doing the math, you could only do $2,000 a month, there’s only so much you could do for somebody. [Right] So let’s say I was part of the generation that people were paying three to seven thousand a month when it started out. This given a number of years back, and there’s an amount that you can do for that. And one of the things that I sort of I sort of had this epiphany on because I lost a client. And I was reflecting on what was going on. And , I was like now I was that guy, my mentor, you know, where we had a number that hadn’t taken into account how much more difficult things are today. The tips and tricks you had 10 years ago, you wish you could use today and that the range brush you’ve put together isn’t cheap, is high quality. And that I think the good news is that legal people are seeing more and more that it’s not just pay this amount of money and hope to get a bunch of cases. But that, given that the cost and the expense on paid search has gone through the roof and TV being much less effective, that people are looking at organic and saying “yes, it’s down, it’s pushed far down. But if I can get an additional 10 cases from it, that has tremendous value,” whereas before it was like a commodity, “I would pay X amount of money. And I hope for something.” And it’s I think the hardest part has been – I’m just curious, because you haven’t had 1.0 you’re coming into this with a relatively clean slate, you know, as far as like not, not at a 10 year legacy with it – But how are you viewing the organic landscape? Whether it be legal or dental? Or any of these? Are you seeing people more sophisticated than you would have expected? As far as like they understand that it’s going to take money to make money? Or is this still like a black box to most of the people that you’re approaching, that they just trust you and they’ll run with you?
Kristi Hagen 10:58
Well, I think it’s a combination of both. But I do think that there’s a reckoning that people are realising when it comes to digital marketing versus television. People are realising it’s not, you know, trackable, it’s very hard to know what you’re getting on your return on investment. The changes that Google’s made in the last 18 months, but the pay-per-click is just ridiculous what they’re trying to do. And so when it comes to organic, or what I like to tell my clients is that Google is an ecosystem, and it’s always been an ecosystem. And you have to have a very strong website, you have to have very strong organic. And by doing that it lifts everything up together, that’s your Google My Business, you know, leads, that’s your pay per click conversions, across the board, Local Service Ads, doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you have to have everything working together. So I do think that people… Since you know, search engines are so integrated into our lives, that the conversation for organic now, even compared to five years ago is an easy conversation to have. They realise it’s, it’s part of it. I have clients who are very successful in competitive spaces who refuse to do pay-per-click. But they do realise that, depending on how we find, you know, their current authority and things like that, it’s a longer, you know, burn to get to that point.
Seth Price 12:20
Right. And that’s the piece I’m sure you like, again, it smacked me like with a ton of bricks, and it still does on a regular basis. The idea that, you know, if this was really easy, we could turn a spigot on like paid search, right? But it is ridiculously expensive, Google is smarter than we are. They can get the ROI so squeezed down on people, but that in theory, organic, and if you get over that hump. And so it’s interesting, if you’re familiar with one of the largest legacy players, I can’t call him an SEO company, because they don’t generally do content or links. But Scorpion is like the largest Google reseller out there for legal, and the fact that part of what I think made them as much money as it did – not that I respect their technical work by any means – But that they were early on to say, “hey, paid is a huge part of this, in that it gives instant gratification.” And that for many people, that’s a significant piece that we want to say we set expectations, but I would think as an SEO, that is one of the hardest things that I’ve had to deal with. Which is, there is a curve it’s going to take and depending on what budget you set, that curve will differ. Just to get your thoughts on that.
Kristi Hagen 13:28
Yeah, well, it’s funny when you say that pay per click is a, you know, instant gratification that made me instantly think of when they launched the Local Service Ads. Right. So the Local Service Ads, that algorithm is nonsense. I mean, I, I’ve researched, I watched, I asked, I’ve dug into that. From the moment it came out, I was all over that. And, you know, early adopters, let’s just keep the personal injury example. And you know, what we’re talking about here. But you know, the first early adopters, which were my clients, and I pushed them out there as fast as I could. They were..
Seth Price 14:06
Crushing it. [Yes] It was, it was great.
Kristi Hagen 14:09
Oh, my gosh, I mean, some huge cases, just all all; and then all of a sudden, the the algorithm didn’t change, but like all of a sudden they were gone. Like what is happening?
Seth Price 14:15
To be fair, this secret was out. And then everybody’s in so they’re dishing out the same number of cases across the board to a certain extent.
Kristi Hagen 14:26
Right. But what’s the algorithm? I mean, what are the ranking factors for Local Service Ads that puts you at the top?
Seth Price 14:37
Well, the thing that we have control over, righ,t you have budget, and max that out then you’re not that, you’re not different. But responsiveness seems to be the biggest differentiator that we’re seeing.
Kristi Hagen 14:48
Yeah, you’re right and I figured that out pretty fast. You have to answer every Local Service Ad not with ever a recording. It has to be a human being, and it has to be within three rings. So that responsiveness rate was very critical in the very beginning.
Seth Price 15:04
Was that counterintuitive, right? So the client, so they wanted more cases. And they want… They insisted that they have 24 hour answer. And they didn’t, those people got crushed. Or a really good buddy from PubCon. He’s in the moving/ storage space called me saying “hey my client isn’t getting any cases, any clients through their Local Service Ads in the Moving/Storage space. And I’m like, “check your responsiveness.” “Oh, yeah, they switch cell phones, nobody responds to a chat in the last, you know, six months?” I look at it this way. They give lawyers a gift. And they could set the terms that the ROI from those calls is so good. If they were saying that you went to any other third party pay-per-call service, this was a fraction of what you’d be paying anywhere else.
Kristi Hagen 15:53
Absolutely. But also, I do agree that in the beginning responsiveness rate was top of the ranking factors, right? What it was, was budget, responsiveness, your, you know, overall reviews, your authority, things like that. But that’s not the, that wasn’t the case for long, because I was watching that responsiveness, right. And I was hacking it as best I could, with a huge review, right numbers, all the things across the board, and it was still dropping off. But you know what happened? It’s like, “Oh, if you’re newer then if you were a new LSA person, they would kind of toss you to the top, and then you would have some more stuff.
Seth Price 16:30
So funny, you say that. I don’t know if you remember, but the company is now a better known brand, Avo. But it was big in the legal space. It’s taking on… Now it’s lead gen, it’s not as sexy as far as the user generated content ecosystem. But similarly, if they wanted to sell you, they would push your ads to the top, almost like a crack dealer. Give you some leads, then call you say, “Hey, how do you like this?”
Kristi Hagen 16:58
That’s, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And actually, I’ve used that same analogy, like a crack dealer. Because what Google did is said, “all of you,” it didn’t start with, with personal injury attorneys. You know, it started out I mean, they all is always how Google does it, too. They take this kind of like, weird industry that’s a little bit like everyone says “hmm.” And they’re like, “We’re doing this for them.” Yeah. Okay. So sure, I’ll make it look nice. Everyone else swallows it and everything’s great, but then push it forward to all the other industries that they truly had in mind. So these… they turn on these LSA ads, they give them to attorneys, the attorneys are like, “holy, what in the heck is going on? Oh, there’s all these leads, like this is gold and paying $15 for a potentially million dollar case.” And so then they’re all in. All the ones who are on the fence about pay per click were all in and then Google shut it off. You know what they did? They were addicted to these leads, and they all went straight to pay per click.
Seth Price 17:58
And the cost there went through the effing roof. And then you had…
Kristi Hagen 18:02
…And then you had performance max rolled out. That’s complete trash.
Seth Price 18:07
I’m sorry, say that again?
Kristi Hagen 18:08
Performance Max, for pay per click.
Seth Price 18:11
Oh, that’s, that’s basically, it’s give us… It’s almost like you’re going back to the old reach local yodel. Give us your money and we’ll tell you what you’re getting now. And look, I don’t know about you. But on our paid side, we used to say, you know, you have a small budget, we’ll take it. We now have the philosophy that if you’re not willing to put three to five, and probably five is the better number, then that system can’t even… You won’t get there. And so which is crazy, because you should intuitively be able to spend $1,000 on leads get less leads, interaction is and yet… no.
Kristi Hagen 18:45
No, no, I’m sorry, you can’t. And I mean, I’m watching people with budgets of $100,000 a month dumping money. I mean, and you’re, we’ve tested everything. I mean, that’s my hope.
Seth Price 18:57
Are you seeing certain markets where like, you spent $100,000, but like if you’re actually tracking, which I know is not perfect, but that the ROI is like bizaro/terrible, like crazy.
Kristi Hagen 19:10
So bad. Well, that’s the thing that I love, you see. I am a data geek at heart, all the way, all the way down. And so when I try something with a client, when I’m testing something, I’m not just looking at you know what Google Analytics or what anything says. I’m actually watching those and call tracking and listening to those phone calls and working with the client to see which ones actually turn into cases. Right?
Seth Price 19:31
Also half the time finding out their sausage making is this intake.
Kristi Hagen 19:35
Don’t even get me started.
Seth Price 19:37
Put that… on hold that for another day. But assuming… which is not which is not fair because I can even see it for myself. Like during COVID we went all remote. It was like I did change over people, I moved some international, did this. I mean again, I now have a moment of awesomeness, but I gotta tell you I judged a lot of stuff when my intake was not as awesome. So it’s always very hard to be introspective and say, you know, did this lead service work? Well, they suck. Well, my intake wasn’t also great. Which one was it? Or was it both?
Kristi Hagen 20:10
Right? There is nothing that is more frustrating that I have not just clenched my teeth and listened to than a lead that you know how much money that lead cost. And what listening to intake, just botch it and you’re just thinking, “oh my gosh, like anything is better than this.: So yes, intake is its own gig. But going back to even just the quality of the leads coming in, and you say like performance max, great example. You look at all of the dumping money into it. It’s like it looks so sexy. And the data, Google’s like, look at you’re doing all this reach, it’s so cheap, blah, blah, blah. And then you go look, and it’s nothing, it’s all trash.
Seth Price 20:49
This reminds me, I wonder if you if you had this experience, too. But I remember early on when they first had like full with Google Support. Now with LSA, we actually get people, which is kind of cool. But with the non LSAs. I remember we got somebody who was out of Boston. Oh, I was so excited that I had risen to the level of my own person. And they were so bad. This wasn’t just me, it was anybody that… the people they had. And if you’re any good at Google, you weren’t working in support for PPC. Yeah, this was like the lowest of the low. I mean, it was domestic, it was people that were educated. But like I was like, ignoring it. And like, it just sucked that I had gotten to the point where I had that person, and it still was like, I’m on my own.
Kristi Hagen 21:29
Right. Or every time you called you get a different person, if you were using like, in the good old days when they were just doing the Google Map stuff. The Google Local, there was a phone number you could absolutely call. Every time you call there was a different answer. Every single time, no matter what, it’s just terrible.
Seth Price 21:47
It’s like parenting, you know. You don’t like the answer, you call back again.
Kristi Hagen 21:50
Right! Just ask the other parent.
Seth Price 21:52
No literally, that that would be the issue. We had an issue. Lawyer left, you had to move the profile and somebody didn’t like the answer.
Kristi Hagen 21:59
Keep calling until they give them the answer that you want. Yes. And then they would help you but you’re like, “Okay, thanks. Anyway, click. Callback.” We’ve done that. Absolutely. The good old days.
Seth Price 22:09
Well, I’m gonna take us on a pivot, this is awesome. But I want it, like, you’re doing something. Like we get a lot of people talking straight SEO on the show and that’s awesome. Go straight paid search. But you are doing something outside the box, which I love. It seems fascinating, where you have said, “Hey, there’s data out here. And I could use this for search engines, I could use it for paid search. Or I could use it to find what happened during a car accident.” So tell us a little bit about this product, how it came to be and what it does.
Kristi Hagen 22:38
So this product is called RoadProof. And what it is, is a very easy to use platform where you can search for the video footage of your car accident cases, based on the latitude/longitude on the police report time and date, that kind of stuff. And if there is video of your accident, you can instantly find it, click a button, watch it and download it. And then you attach it to your case files, and you use it in court or to use it to settle. It’s, it came from working with attorneys and trying to help them, their teams be more effective. Right? You start with intake and you’re like “what are you guys doing, and it kind of snowballs from there.” And we had one guy in a firm that was spending his entire career, his whole life was just subpoenaing footage all the time. And I was like, “tell me about this.” And so then I figured out I was like, I think we could fix this problem. And that’s kind of how it was born. And it’s been really fun because it’s… Nobody else was really crazy enough to do it. Because it was a big undertaking. And, but yeah, it’s becoming very successful.
Seth Price 23:49
It’s great to see it popping up, people using it on websites to sort of advertise, to bring people in to find your accidents. Really, really great stuff. And so again, we’ll put links to these, these to where… For people who want to learn more about because I think it’s fascinating. You know, I know I told you when I met you I was sideswiped on a hit and run. And it was frustrating. In my case, I, the quality, was not good enough. It was, I was trying to find the person as opposed to knowing who was at fault. I was trying to find the person, but it really shows you that you know, Big Brother may be watching but it’s not always watching well. And I think one of the things that your service is going to point out is looking at it not retrospectively, but what is out there and are you know, if we’re going to have Big Brother watching, we might as well have something that is more useful. So I hope that not only is, is it good for making plaintiffs successful and proving their case, but I hope that it furthers and allows people to think more about how we should be using these cameras. Hopefully for good, because just having them themselves is one thing, but having them in the most efficient…. I mean you probably have now data that would show at this resolution versus these placements, all of these things would be significant differentiators compared to what a municipality thinks is, like best practices.
Kristi Hagen 25:20
Right. And so I mean, this is all publicly available data. And really the passion behind the whole thing is, we wanted to take… nobody’s databasing this data, it’s just getting, it’s because it’s very expensive. It’s very time consuming. It’s a very big job to database, this data. And so these municipalities are keeping it for a very short period of time and deleting it. But really, it’s about having the truth about what happened. Right? Once you’ve… Yeah, car accidents. Absolutely. That’s huge. If you’ve ever been in a major car accident, I have, you don’t know what happened. You think you know what happened, but it happened to you. And so you don’t, you’re just like… Because it’s all happening so fast.
Seth Price 26:07
We had a non personal injury auto accident where somebody cut my wife off. And the stories given to the police were so backwards, right? Something as simple as this now, you know, would have been incredibly valuable to have.
Kristi Hagen 26:23
Yes, and so instead of this, it’s really just taking away the grey and doing black and white, and we want to be able to offer this to the public. We have a lot of different opportunities right now that we’re in discussions about to do with this data besides what we’re doing with it right now. And it is 100% something that… Like you said, we’ve got all these cameras, but is the public able to use them in the ways that they should be used. Because that is, that’s all publicly, you know, available information because of the Freedom of Information Act. That should be ours to have.
Seth Price 26:56
And what I love about what you’re doing is, Freedom of Information Act is great, but six months and a bunch of paperwork. The idea of that stuff turns into real time. It’s just genius. So this is this is fascinating. Thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and spending. Thank you for having the spending time here with us today. I hope to see you at a another either internet geek conference or legal marketing conference in the near future. But this has been awesome. Thank you so much.
Kristi Hagen 27:23
You can count on it. And thank you for having me. I’m a big fan.
Seth Price 27:26
BluShark Digital 27:27
Thank you for tuning in to the SEO Insider with Seth Price. Be sure to check back next week for fresh insights into building your brand’s online presence. Episodes are available to stream directly on BluShark Digital’s website.