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Taking the US Legal SEO Marketing Sector by Storm with Doug Bradley

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Doug Bradley

Doug Bradley, Owner at Everest Legal Marketing

Doug Bradley stands as a distinguished figure in the legal marketing realm, having honed a career that adeptly bridges the evolution of traditional advertising to the forefront of digital marketing. As the founder of Everest Legal Marketing, based in Southern California, Doug leads his enterprise with a relentless focus on empowering small to medium-sized law firms across the U.S. through innovative website design, engaging content development, and strategic search engine optimisation.

With roots extending back to the era of Yellow Pages advertising, Doug's journey through the marketing landscape is both rich and varied. His early exposure to the legal sector, where 25 to 30 percent of his revenue stemmed from law firms, ignited his passion for the legal advertising industry. This experience was instrumental as he navigated the challenging waters of the Great Recession, a period that saw the decline of traditional phone book advertising but also a time when Doug's resilience and adaptability shone brightly.

Transitioning to a major U.S. legal directory,, Doug further deepened his expertise in the fiercely competitive legal SEO arena. It was here that he recognised the importance of not just selling a service but actively ensuring its success—a realisation that prompted him to refine and sometimes even redesign marketing campaigns to meet the exacting standards required for effective results.

The sale of this company and the subsequent redundancy of many of his colleagues became the catalyst for Doug to establish his own firm. With Everest Legal Marketing, he now channels his comprehensive understanding of the nuances of legal marketing into strategies that ensure law firms not only have an online presence but dominate their space effectively.

Doug is also a respected voice in the field of legal marketing ethics and strategy, often sharing his insights as a speaker at prestigious institutions and panels, including the University of La Verne, WSBCBA, RCBA, and The Hon. Joseph B. Campbell American Inn of Court.

With a philosophy that transcends the simple ownership of a website, Doug and his team at Everest Legal Marketing dedicate themselves to crafting bespoke SEO strategies that elevate the online visibility of their clients, ensuring they are not just seen, but sought after.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Doug Bradley

Watch the interview

(click on the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)

Listen to the podcast

(55 minutes long)

Unscripted Legal SEO Marketing Q&As with Mark A Preston and Doug Bradley

Who is Doug Bradley?

My name is Doug Bradley, and I am the owner of Everest Legal Marketing, based in Southern California. We specialise in working with small to medium-sized law firms across the US, providing services such as website design, content development, and search engine optimisation.

What is your background within the SEO marketing space?

Indeed, I am somewhat of a veteran in this industry. I initially started advertising in the Yellow Pages. Notably, 25 to 30 percent of our revenue was derived from law firms, which comprised a significant portion of my clientele. This early exposure to legal advertising was my gateway into the industry. Throughout the Great Recession, I sustained my career in this shrinking market, which drastically reduced the efficacy of phone book advertising. Subsequently, I joined a prominent US legal directory,, an experience that deepened my interest in the competitive nature of SEO for law firms. I often found myself enhancing campaigns actively because the firm's follow-through was lacking, which honed my SEO skills considerably. After a major organisational shift where about 200 sales representatives were let go, I decided to establish my own firm, taking several clients with me to start anew.

What are the biggest challenges within the legal SEO marketing sector?

That’s an excellent question. Over the past five years, I've observed that lawyers have become increasingly adept at marketing. They now treat their practices more like brands, focusing significantly on branding themselves. They are placing greater emphasis on analytics, attribution, and ROI. Previously, the drive was more about presence and reputation—being seen as the biggest and the best. Now, even solo practitioners understand the importance of how their online presence—from websites and bios to social media and videos—shapes their brand image. This represents a significant shift, especially considering that law firms traditionally are slow to adapt to such changes.

Does having a brand-building-first mindset make your job easier when dealing with law firm clients?

Easier? Not necessarily. Our main clientele comprises small to medium-sized businesses, often ranging from solo practitioners to firms with 10 to 20 attorneys. Many firms, especially smaller ones, lack the budget or inclination for in-depth branding discussions. They primarily engage our services for straightforward objectives: they want leads from the internet. This necessity requires us to wear multiple marketing hats since many don't have a marketing director or COO to manage and track incoming leads. While this complexity presents certain benefits, it also introduces challenges. Managing these multifaceted responsibilities effectively, especially with very small or new firms, can be demanding.

Do you see yourselves as the in-house marketing team for each law firm you work with?

Our clients often view us in that light, and I appreciate being considered as an in-house marketing resource. Our primary focus remains on what we've identified through our data as the most effective strategy for generating leads for our clients—search engine optimisation. However, it’s important to note that our goal isn’t just SEO for the sake of Google rankings; it’s about delivering actual clients to the law firms. As search behaviours and platforms evolve, we adapt to ensure our strategies effectively meet these changing conditions.

Do you mainly work on local SEO for the law firms?

Yes, our efforts are predominantly local. Our clients typically aim to attract clients within a 20 to 40-mile radius, though most are focused on garnering visibility in the immediate cities surrounding them. While the expectation isn’t necessarily to be found 50 to 100 miles away, we do manage campaigns for several clients with multiple office locations spread out over larger distances. Each of these is treated as a distinct local campaign.

When you secure a new established law firm client, what does your strategy process look like?

Indeed, each client presents a unique starting point, which is particularly true for law firms. Whether they are newly established or undergoing a leadership transition after decades, each requires tailored attention. Our initial step is to assess their current website—its strengths, technical deficiencies, and authority. We then identify their primary competitors. This benchmarking is standard in SEO but crucial for strategising. We aim to improve upon these competitors' methods and project where we can realistically position our client in the next three to six months. Our approach is data-driven, setting realistic expectations and future strategies for our clients.

Has your approach towards content changed within the last six months?

Our commitment to quality, usefulness, and informative content remains unchanged. We continue to employ legal writers based in the US to ensure that the content resonates with the needs and expectations of our clients' audiences. While AI technologies like ChatGPT are transforming content creation, they are primarily used by our team to devise article frameworks or ideas. The final content is human-written, maintaining the high standards our clients expect and reducing their need to spend time editing substandard work. Thus, while the tools have evolved, the essence of our content creation process remains steadfastly professional and human-centric.

When you are writing content for your law firm clients, do you need to understand the varied laws per US State?

Absolutely, that's a crucial aspect. Each state in the US can have distinct legal guidelines set by their respective bar associations. Our process involves a thorough review of these guidelines to identify any unique requirements or restrictions. During our initial discovery phase, clients often highlight specific legal issues that previous firms may have encountered, such as sanctions or fines. This awareness helps us ensure the content we produce adheres strictly to the professional ethics and regulations of the relevant state bar, preventing any potential legal issues for our clients.

Do you get the actual lawyers to sense-check your content before you publish it?

Absolutely. We ensure that everything we write on behalf of a client is edited and approved by them before publication. We strive to make this process as straightforward as possible, recognising that a lawyer’s time can be exceedingly valuable, often costing several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars per hour. Our commitment to quality is why we invest significantly in our writers, ensuring that the content meets high standards and minimises any potential disappointment for our clients.

By specialising solely in legal marketing, does it give you an advantage when driving quality leads for your clients?

Indeed, that’s precisely why we specialise. Understanding the business models of personal injury lawyers in states like California, Florida, and Illinois, as well as more niche practices such as bad faith insurance, equips us with the expertise to create successful marketing strategies across various legal sectors. This deep knowledge allows us to develop tailored blueprints for lawyers in different states, which I find particularly rewarding.

By working exclusively within the legal sector, do you ever find yourself competing with yourself?

While the United States is highly litigious with at least a million lawyers, the scenario where I’m competing against myself has only arisen a few times. The vast number of law firms allows us to cultivate valuable relationships without the fear of saturating the market. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunities in this field.

Do you work exclusively with one legal firm within each town or city?

Yes, we have specific guidelines in place regarding this. If we ever decide to deviate from these rules, it's done with full transparency to all parties involved. We strive to avoid conflicts of interest, which has occasionally led me to decline lucrative offers from law firms due to existing commitments. While it’s rare, I’ve had to refuse work from firms that approached me because of my successes with their competitors. In those cases, I explain that I cannot take them on, but should circumstances change, I would consider their offer, ensuring them of my loyalty and non-competitive stance.

How do you handle competitors of your clients who also want to work with you?

In this industry, some agency owners include an exclusivity clause in their contracts, offering potential clients the choice to secure exclusive services in specific legal areas such as personal injury or criminal defense in their city. This exclusivity can come at a premium, typically an additional two or three thousand pounds per month, to compensate for declining work from other parties in the same specialism within that locality.

Do different legal firms within each city specialise in different types of law?

Indeed, there are roughly 10 to 15 primary consumer-facing types of legal practice, including personal injury, workers' compensation, family law, and criminal defense, among others frequently required by the general public. In any given city, we might have four clients, each specialising in different areas of law. Often, these firms are interconnected; they might refer us because they are acquainted or even friends with each other, which fosters a collaborative rather than competitive atmosphere.

Do members of the legal sector tend to help each other?

Yes, it's quite situational. For instance, some of my clients refer us to colleagues who run a similar practice but might also offer additional services. These attorneys often collaborate through referral relationships, which can be financially beneficial due to shared referral fees. However, our clients generally prefer that we avoid working with their direct competitors. There are significant concerns regarding the ethics of using strategies and knowledge developed with one client to benefit another, especially if it's a main competitor. From a business perspective, while it's appealing to manage multiple clients in the same area, ethically, it poses a dilemma.

Do you always put ethics before money?

Indeed. Pursuing ethical practices might have cost me financially—potentially I could have been wealthier. I've had to turn away several potential clients, including some who could have been six-figure accounts, to maintain ethical standards and trust with existing clients.

Is there plenty of opportunity within the legal SEO marketing sector?

Absolutely, there's a wealth of opportunity. The legal SEO marketing sector is vast, and whenever I'm seeking new clients, I can look beyond my own state. With 49 other states to consider, there's practically an endless supply of law firms that could benefit from our services. This breadth of potential clients ensures that we are never short of opportunities.

Have you noticed any changes within the legal space due to the recent Google updates?

Yes, we began observing changes around September to November last year. Previously, our clients' traffic was either increasing or remaining steady. However, we started noticing a slowdown in organic traffic for some clients, despite them maintaining top rankings for multiple search phrases. Initially, we attributed this to the seasonal drop during the Christmas period, but the trend continued into 2024. Interestingly, we're also seeing a growth in traffic from alternative search engines like Bing and DuckDuckGo, though these increases don't compensate for the losses from Google Organic. This could be due to a variety of factors, including a slow market or users exploring other search engines to find legal services. We're now focusing on diversifying traffic and lead sources for our clients to adapt to these changes.

Have you seen any change in the ranking of legal informational content versus lead generation content?

Indeed, there's been a noticeable shift. Historically, long, well-cited informational pages—sometimes called pillar or skyscraper pages—dominated visibility. These pages, often around 2,000 words, provided comprehensive, factually correct information. Lately, however, we're seeing these pages lose visibility to more succinct pages that are direct and feature strong calls to action. These pages answer questions promptly without offering legal advice and are increasingly competing effectively on page one. This shift has prompted us to rethink our approach to creating lead generation pages or practice pages that are directly aligned with search intent.

What are your thoughts on long-form versus short-form content within the legal sector?

In the legal sector, particularly for consumer-based lawyers, the strategy has always been nuanced. Ranking effectively often requires well-written, targeted content. Recently, the emphasis has shifted towards content that is direct and answers questions succinctly while establishing the author's expertise on the topic. We're continually working to balance creating helpful, informational content without crossing into giving legal advice, ensuring that the content inspires potential clients to contact the lawyer. This involves a careful consideration of how to deliver content that is both informative and engaging.

When writing law-based content, do you have to be mindful of providing value without actually delivering a legal solution, given the complexities of the law?

Yes, there's a definite need to balance value with caution, especially in the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) category. The proliferation of forums and the 'People Also Ask' sections often clutter search results with potentially inaccurate or outdated information. This is particularly concerning in sectors like health, where incorrect information can have serious repercussions. For instance, it's alarming to see non-expert platforms like Quora or Reddit comments on serious health issues outranking authoritative sources. This raises significant ethical questions about the responsibility of content in sensitive fields like law and health.

Are you just sitting back hoping that Google will clean up the SERPs?

It appears that many are waiting for Google to address these issues. My background, transitioning from traditional encyclopedias to search engines, aligns with seeing Google as a trusted resource. However, their current trajectory with handling user-generated content in search results could potentially tarnish their reputation. They need to develop a more robust strategy for managing the accuracy and relevance of information in forums and the 'People Also Ask' sections. If these areas remain problematic, users might start considering alternative search platforms.

What are your thoughts on Google SGE providing factually incorrect information that could potentially harm someone?

The stakes are particularly high in the YMYL categories such as law, health, and finance, where misinformation can have life-altering consequences. There are wide-ranging opinions from experts in these fields, and the challenge for AI and search engines is to accurately curate and present this information responsibly. Trust in these systems is critical, and how AI manages to filter and verify content is a significant concern that will continue to be relevant not just in the next few months, but for decades to come.

Do you think that legal-based content is very black and white, as it is all based on the actual law?

Indeed, and this presents another challenge, particularly in consumer areas of law. Often, clients of our law firm customers are not well-versed in the law. They may have expectations that hiring a lawyer could allow them to circumvent or 'massage' the laws, which is not the case. This misunderstanding leads to disappointment and, regrettably, one-star reviews for our clients. When I discuss these reviews with them, they express frustration at being criticised for not breaking the law, despite explaining the legal constraints to their clients. So, it’s these complications that add layers to what might seem like straightforward legal content.

How do you differentiate and add value to your legal-based content when everything is just based on the law?

That’s an excellent question. Although the law sets a framework, each client has their unique nuances and approaches. During client intake, we delve into questions about their methods—whether they are aggressive or mild in their legal approach, for example. Additionally, the localised nature of law firms plays a crucial role. For instance, in a vast state like California, a person in Sacramento is unlikely to hire a personal injury attorney in San Diego unless under special circumstances. By creating content that resonates locally and positions our clients as local experts on specific topics, we can effectively differentiate them. We continually strive to uncover new topics that local competitors haven’t addressed, building our clients' websites to become authoritative in their local area.

How do you use general marketing for a positive SEO impact for your legal clients?

While our main service is indeed search engine optimisation for law firms, we approach SEO holistically. Our strategies involve identifying the best platforms for our clients to be featured on, such as legal directories, blogs, or through public relations efforts. Each of these elements is leveraged with the goal of enhancing our clients' visibility in search results. Branding can sometimes pose challenges, as our clients look to us for creative input while primarily engaging our services for SEO. Nevertheless, our focus remains on ensuring their presence is optimised across various platforms for maximum search engine visibility.

What do you do for your clients to generate quality leads once all the foundational local SEO has been completed?

Once the foundational local SEO is in place, we focus on leveraging top-of-funnel searches and capitalising on timely opportunities that may arise from recent incidents requiring legal services. We enhance our use of social media and other platforms like Google Business Profiles to engage potential clients more actively. Additionally, we publish content on partner websites that seek legal perspectives, which helps in building relationships with other local businesses. The aim is to strengthen the law firm’s online presence to the extent that it becomes a formidable force, making it difficult for competitors to displace them.

Do you essentially help your legal clients to build a trusted brand locally?

Absolutely, our primary goal is to help clients establish a strong local presence. We don’t typically engage directly with traditional advertising methods such as billboards or local TV and radio; however, we can facilitate these activities through partnerships with other marketing firms. Our focus remains on enhancing our clients' online search dominance, which is crucial for generating productive leads for their practices.

Are there US-based law firms that dominate on a national level?

Yes, there are both national and state-level firms that dominate. For instance, Morgan and Morgan is a significant player in personal injury law across the US, and their website dominates search engine results wherever they operate. Similarly, Cordell is well-known for family law on a national scale. While there are several firms that achieve national dominance, most of our clients operate on a statewide basis or extend into neighbouring states. We sometimes manage clients across different states, which can be complex, but it's part of our service. Large national firms generally have a substantial budget, which gives them a considerable advantage in maintaining their dominant positions.

Do law firm customers prefer to engage a local legal firm rather than one of the national big players?

Yes, I believe it ultimately comes down to how well we connect with potential clients. As marketers, and similarly for lawyers, the decision needs to be made about whether to attract clients who respond to the marketing messages of large national firms or to those who value local engagement. Local firms are embedded in the community, attending local events, supporting organisations, and sponsoring activities like the local little league. This local presence often resonates more strongly with someone facing personal legal issues, such as criminal defence or divorce, providing a personal touch that can be lost with larger, national firms.

Do big brand legal firms target a different market than the average local law firm?

Absolutely. Our agency, though relatively small with fewer than a hundred clients, competes effectively against much larger agencies. Our campaigns often outperform those of our larger competitors, and our clients appreciate the direct access they have to me. They know they can call and I'll be directly accountable for their campaign. This contrasts with the experience at larger firms, where clients may feel like just another number. The personal service and accountability we offer is akin to that of local law firms, which can get lost in the bureaucracy of larger entities.

Do you think that local SEO-based agencies need to start helping their clients become part of the local community instead of just working from a local SEO checklist?

Definitely. Emphasising local outreach and community presence is crucial. In the local community, reputations are built and lost quickly. If I were to let down a local lawyer, the negative feedback would spread rapidly among their peers and colleagues. This could be highly detrimental to my agency. In contrast, for a large agency, such feedback might merely blend into the background. Helping clients integrate and contribute to their local communities not only enhances their reputation but also strengthens their overall marketing effectiveness.

How does it make you feel to be working with a number of local law firms?

I genuinely enjoy it. Whether it’s due to my personality or just how I view competition and marketing, it aligns well with most lawyers' perceptions of acquiring the right clients and cases. I thrive on the challenge of marketing for law, which involves competing not only with other law firms but also with authoritative legal directories and even contributors on platforms like Reddit and Quora. The rewards are particularly gratifying, especially when I see tangible results, such as a client being able to attend an important family event or winning a pivotal case through leads generated from their website. These successes can significantly impact a law firm, from altering their marketing strategies to enabling them to expand their team, which I find incredibly rewarding.

Do you ever consider the real-life positive impact on the people working within the legal practices you assist?

Absolutely. Lawyers are small business owners, much like any other tradesperson in your local area, albeit in a different sector. They face similar challenges: they have families to support, expenses to manage, employees to pay, and investments to make in marketing and supplies. At the end of the day, their concerns, though perhaps unique in context, are similar to those of any other business owner. I feel a strong connection to this aspect of their lives. Many of my clients, including solo practitioners, are not operating large-scale firms but are instead focused on providing essential services like family law, estate planning, criminal defence, or personal injury help. They typically don't aim to become vast, dominating entities but rather want to make a significant, positive impact on their clients' lives.

Do you have any advice for agencies considering entering the legal sector?

If you're an agency owner or an SEO professional contemplating taking on your first attorney client, my advice would be to proceed with caution and meticulousness. It's crucial to thoroughly understand the bar guidelines of the state in which the attorney operates. Ensure that everything is compliant and give the client ample opportunity to review all content before anything is published. This careful approach will help you navigate the specific compliance and ethical considerations unique to legal marketing.

What conversations would you like to have, Doug, and where can people find you?

If any lawyers are interested in exploring SEO, we offer a free website SEO tool on our website,, which provides high-level insights into how their website is viewed by Google. That would be the best starting point. Additionally, I'm quite active on Twitter, where I’m always open to starting conversations about SEO and legal marketing. I'd be delighted to connect with anyone interested in these topics there.

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