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Mindset behind taking from 0-10 Mil $ ARR SEO agency!

Welcome to Rankwatch’s E-Coffee with Experts wherein we discuss all things related to online marketing with some of the best minds in the business. Today we welcome Chris Dreyer who is the CEO of and also a marketing expert helping personal injury law firms get rankings on the first page of Google


Hey everyone, today we have a very special person with us — Chris Dryer. Chris is the owner of He is one of the smartest SEO persons I have known in my life. Although we were planning to meet in person, because of COVID-19, it just couldn’t happen. Nevertheless, here we are today, having a candid discussion about how Chris has grown his agency; about his journey in life, and a lot of other things. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Thank you so much for having me! Excited to be here.

So, Chris, I was going through everything you’ve done. It’s been such an interesting journey. Therefore, I would like to know who was Chris as a child while growing up?

I was always very interested in anything. I’m a contrarian person; my mom always says I’m a rebel. So if you tell me this is how something’s supposed to be done, I would always look for an alternative way to do that thing. Even playing video games as a kid, if everyone played one specific character, I would play a different character. I was always a contrarian. I liked to take a different point of view for every approach.

If I talked to one of your friends from your school days, what would they tell me about you?

My friends would say, I’m super competitive. My dad has this saying, “You only play the game to win”. Games are zero-sum, right? Whenever I play anything, whether it’s poker or agency life, a board game, or anything, I’m looking at every single aspect of it to where I can gain an advantage over my opponent. And I’m really trying to win, it drives my wife nuts. But that’s what I do.

That’s very interesting. But I’m sure you’re enjoying the journey as well, right? The destination or the win is important but so is the journey.

Absolutely, competing is fun. If it’s not difficult, there’s not that big reward. So I think you have to be uncomfortable in every aspect of your life or journey or business. And I think when something is challenging to obtain, there’s more gratification.

Chris, from a school teacher to a self-taught SEO, affiliate marketer, to running your own agency. That’s a very different progression from what you see, for a normal person. What exactly are the qualities in you which you think pushed you to make those changes?

I just felt like when I went to school, I didn’t know what path I wanted to take. I knew that I wanted to honor my family and make them happy. And that’s why I went to college and got a degree in education. I was very involved in sports in high school and had a great love for the game of basketball. So, my original plan was to teach at a high school and then go up the ladder and then coach collegiately or professionally. That was my original goal, and I did get a job at a high school and I was the JV basketball coach. But there was this day in day out grind where I just didn’t feel satisfied. And this is really cliche, but I typed in “how to make money” online. And I found Ed Dale’s 30 Day Challenge to affiliate marketing. Now back in the day, there weren’t any courses. There were some forums like warrior forums and a handful of individuals on Yahoo Groups back in the day. Now it is somewhat equivalent to Reddit.

I remember the challenge and Digital Point forum, Warrior Forum. So, you did the whole 30 Day Challenge, and you ended up making $10?

I think it used to be 10 bucks. When I received that initial payment, I knew $10 was not very significant, but I could see the opportunity. I thought now that I made $10. Imagine if I applied all my focus to this avenue. And that’s what happened. I got obsessed, I went all in, learned, and consumed everything I could. And by the end of my second year of teaching, I was making significantly more doing affiliate marketing than I was teaching. So, it was a natural course and trajectory to go into affiliate marketing.

What exactly were you promoting in affiliate marketing?

My first site was We ranked number one for double chin for three or four years. I ranked number one for Goji Berry when it was on Opera.
“How to stain concrete floors and stained concrete floors?” — I ranked number one for that for years. In fact, I was the number one Kindle Direct Publishing book on Amazon back in the day. Those were a few of the avenues. I even had stuff on pastry chefs. I had the best man duties at Kindle Direct Publishing book, and I had a generator website(Katrina) — that when all the Hurricanes were hitting the US, all of my generators sold out. We sold every single one available.

I used to be in AdSense and affiliate. While I was doing AdSense, I used to have a website on almost everything. I used to rank on single keywords like beauty, treadmills, weight loss, You name it, and there would be a website, so I completely get it. And then what happened, Panda Penguin?

I normally have Ezine’s coffee mug here. I have hundreds of those coffee mugs that you would get as an author. And that was a good outlet for link building. They helped to build my rank and The Keyword Academy links. Then once Penguin came in and smacked those around, penalized everyone for the unnatural links, my affiliate income went from $15,000 a month down to 2000 overnight. I knew I wasn’t doing things evergreen and there wasn’t enough consumer value, that the effort to take those out of the grave and to rebuild them was going to be pretty significant. So, that’s how I got a gig at a digital marketing agency and where I got my feet wet in the agency life.

Why did you make the switch, then? You were doing well at your agency. You were the head of SEO there, right?

I rose to be their top guy, their top SEO specialist. I say SEO specialist, but I was doing everything – Pay Per Click, literally anything digital. Being honest and transparent, I didn’t think that they had the right business game-plan and I didn’t think that they were more sales-oriented and less on the technical skill. And I just thought I could do better. I think that’s a classic story of most technicians. Most specialists think they can do better and they start their own business and that’s what I did.

Okay, and that’s when you launched

Attorney We launched it as a full-service provider because we’re trying to offer anything digital. We were trying to increase our top line. We would take on anything to generate cash and revenue at the beginning. We couldn’t be too selective because we didn’t have a brand, we didn’t have reputation, testimonials and case studies. Eventually, over time, we really developed that reputation for SEO. That’s my core competency in terms of like a digital skill and just kept niching down. We referred out all of our pay-per-click business and focused on SEO. We referred to all of our design and focus on SEO. The interesting thing is, even though individuals think that you’re giving away opportunities, we were actually creating them. Because of our focus on SEO, we could put all of our energy and all of our vision into making that the best service possible. That allowed us to create reciprocal, mutually beneficial referral relationships with these other agencies.

Although I wanted to talk about this a little later in the show, but I will go ahead right now. I understand design is a completely different ballgame, even for social media you need special skill sets. But when it comes to SEO and PPC really go hand in hand.
Moreover, with the changing dynamics of the SERP world, for example, GOOGLE, the owner of the show, the king of the jungle — they are reducing the space which an SEO listing has. The organic share of voice is getting reduced if you look back at 5 -10 from now. Everything that we could generate organically — the strategy, keywords, landing pages, conversions has been reduced.
There are a lot of commonalities between SEO and PPC even today. But do you still feel that PPC and SEO would not be a good mix of services –the search company versus the organic company?

To some degree, all marketing channels can be beneficial with the right focus and for the right cost, because attention shifts, and there is arbitrage and what you would pay for one channel versus another. For example, right now, most individuals are doing away with radio. And people don’t even think about radio as much. The cost for those spots has significantly declined.
In the beginning in pay per click, everything was 10 cents a click, and now in the legal vertical — car accident lawyers, is $100 a click. It changes from time to time. From a marketing standpoint, from a unique selling proposition, I can sell in both ways. I sell the advantage of PPC. I can say, “Hey, let’s do pay per click because it takes time to rank your SEO. We can get immediate traffic.” Or I can say, “Hey, you should do SEO versus PPC because in SEO, you’re creating an asset that compounds over time and it’s evergreen and permanent.”
You can play it either way. I’ve seen it in a lot of different directions.

This takes me to my next question. Making people understand that SEO is a long-term game and its intangible, is difficult. Telling them that it depends on a lot of factors. And that you will get results maybe after six months, nine months, or twelve months, depending on where you are right now is tricky.
Your clients will need to have patience. They must be ready to pay a decent amount of money for a longer duration, say 9 months, before they see any actionable outcome. It also becomes difficult to retain those clients after that. Because once they get the outcome, they understand it’s cumulative as well.
In such cases, do you reach a point where you feel that your clients are saying, “Now I’ve spent money for two years, I’ve reached a very good spot and now I need to pause my SEO for some time and hold that money for myself”? Have you been in such situations? If yes, how do you handle that?

That’s a good question. This can occur for some areas of law that aren’t saturated and aren’t as competitive. For the personal injury space where we live and breathe, everybody in those top results is using an SEO agency. So the moment that you stop generating new content, improving your website, promoting and creating content for those linkable assets and natural inbound link acquisition, you start to fall behind on something. Google likes fresh signals to the site. So I don’t know that you can ever become complacent in a very saturated niche. If it was “trademark attorney”, and you’re the only one in the city, or maybe there’s a handful, you could build a nice gap, a nice moat to where you invest elsewhere.
I like all channels for marketing, attention, and impressions to build the brand. But when we make this comparison, the other thing that I like about SEO is that one landing page could rank for 2000 keywords. So, even though you rank number one for a particular phrase, it doesn’t mean you’re going to rank number one for all of them. This presents a lot of opportunities even on a specific keyword segment. Not to mention, other parallel areas of the law. So under personal injury, you could do really well for PI, but maybe you’re not ranking well for a car accident or truck or motorcycle or slip and fall. That’s where opportunities can really be created from an SEO and content marketing standpoint.

Since it is as competitive a niche, you are always racing against other people. And if you pause, those people will go ahead, and you will fall back.

It’s actually a tactical strategy that we take. We try to create gaps, we try to create these barriers of entry. Everyone that’s working with an SEO agency is going to pull up a SEMrush, Moz, or some competitive analysis. They’re going to do a competitor backlink analysis to see where the gap is. So, the real trick is, what are the links? What are the things that I can do that they can’t replicate? That’s how you create a barrier of entry.

So do you have a lot of owned assets in your business or places where you have control and no one else can get ahead of you?

Absolutely. Even from a medium perspective, if you have a client that has a podcast and your competitors don’t, you can get those audio base links. There’s a lot of opportunities there. If they create a white paper and turn it into a PDF, you can submit it to PDF directories. If they have an exceptional case that has a lot of media attention, they can get big news publications now. They are not always do-follow links, but they’re still great trust signals. All these things can be used as a competitive advantage.

Tell me something, you have really scaled up an agency that too in a single niche and selling SEO. You’ve done that by increasing your prices to a level where you really feel that this is what I need. But what I want to understand and talk about is how do you really price? Is it value-based pricing? Do you charge for your man-hours? Or what exactly do you tell the client regarding the outcome you will deliver? In X amount of time, how do you go about figuring the right price?

Yes, we do value-based pricing. Not entirely value; there’s input, output and value. Input would be hours and capacity; output would be units, which would be the number of links, number of articles. And then there’s value.
We do a competitive diagnosis. We call it an SEO discovery because we’re mirroring our audience, our audiences are legal. They do discoveries before they go to trial.
And I use all kinds of analogies here. Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. Imagine your car wasn’t working properly and you took it to an auto shop and before you got out of the car, they said it was going to be $100,000 to fix your car, you’d think they’re crazy. Obviously, they didn’t even look under the hood.
That’s what we have to do. In every location, it doesn’t matter what the population is. It’s what’s the competitive landscape from an SEO perspective. What’s the Gap? What’s the target for links? What kind of content do we have to create? How many reviews do we have to acquire? All of those things go into pricing. And here’s the catch. You could have the exact same competitive strategy in two locations. But you could charge differently, even though you’re going to employ the same tactics on value-based pricing.
The value of a case in Los Angeles is more than it would be in Louisiana, or in California. That’s because they can get larger settlements in California than they can in Louisiana.

Would you talk about ROI with the clients? Would you tell them how soon they can start to see results, marketing qualified, sales qualified leads if they are paying X amount. Would you go into that much depth with your clients? More importantly, how would you actually give that timeframe?

It’s always art and science. It’s always an estimate, but it is setting expectations. The most critical component of any relationship with a service provider is setting expectations.
We call it internally – “teaching our clients not to be crazy”. If they don’t set expectations, and they get upset because they don’t know.

Fair enough. But at the end of the day, it is SEO, not every estimate will go right. Sometimes even if we estimate nine months, it might end up being twelve months or sixteen months. What strategy do you use at those moments? Do you just tell the client directly? Are you very transparent with them in terms of what you’re doing?

We lay out a full summary of execution for everything that we do. We have monthly consults. Sometimes, we estimate the forecast improperly, but sometimes we have some early wins more quickly than we anticipated. That’s just the name of the game, and guaranteeing a certain result is very difficult in SEO. Now that we have so much data, we’ve started to dip our toe in performance-based contracts for SEO. It takes a very strong understanding of the industry and market you’re in. Because with pay per click, you can do those types of things, you get enough data, you can see what the cost per acquisition is, your CAC. But it’s more difficult for SEO.

So when you’re doing performance-based SEO, you’re not owning the asset. Do you get a part of the revenue continuously for the life of the company? Because you’ll put in all the hard work, they’ll start ranking. But if after six months or 12 months they say, “Okay, that’s it. We want to call it a day.” What after that?

I’ll tell you a couple of different considerations for this. The first one is we only do the performance-based when not only our attribution is incredible, but the client-side attribution with their case management system, with their CRM, with their data is phenomenal. You feel confident, and we can do like a trailing 12. We have consistent data; we are more able to put a dollar amount on the actual signed case. Not the lead, we do a signed case. The other thing to think about is if you are the best and you know that they don’t have the option like you, then your risk of churning is less. Also, you can do things like crazy risk reversal. Pay within the first 60 days, if we’re not the best agency you’ve ever worked with, not only will we refund your money, but we’ll also pay for your next agency’s first month. Like who’s gonna take that up?

That’s, that’s an insane guarantee. I know you follow traction and in traction, they have a unique proposition or a unique selling point. I don’t think there is a better unique proposition than what you just said?

It’s tough. Because anyone that’s going to take that up knows they’re never going to work with us again.

Fair enough. 100%. So, you’d still work on their assets? Not yours in terms of results?

Yeah, that’s a downside, particularly in the legal domain. I know that Arizona and Utah have some non-attorney ownership laws going into place, but a former agency owner, IM Bentley, creates those assets and sells the pay-per-lead. That is the downside. But if you’re comfortable with the relationship, if you’ve worked with them for a few years, then we honor those. It’s a mutually beneficial thing. It’s a win-win if we generate significantly more because they’re happy and they’re happy to pay more.

Okay, let’s talk a little about scale. You’re one of the few people who are people running an SEO-only agency in a single niche. You’ve been able to scale up to almost 8-figure revenue numbers. What has actually led to that scale? How have you built your systems and processes in your teams? What’s the structure of your teams and how exactly do things flow?

There’s a lot to that. When people think of productization, they think of delivery and just processcizing things that makes it repeatable. But the other thing that you’re doing is you’re improving profitability by eliminating waste. Waste is when you create things that aren’t repeatable. It’s a blank canvas and you always have to do things that are different. So you can create efficiencies that increase profitability. It also allows you to create a structure for your company for scale. So when you have particularly one service, you can take it almost in an assembly line type of manner, similar to a Henry Ford type of model. Even prefabrication could be external outsource companies or manufacturers, but we’re an EOS agency. We have an accountability chart. We’re set up by function. We have a hierarchy. We are a top-down traditional model. We are not a Pod. Pods have the advantage of cross-functional departments that have better communication and they can be autonomous. We use strategic partners and outsource some of our work to content production, some link building and have an outsourced partnership. The top-down hierarchy traditionally works a little bit better.

Also, like you said, Pods are not the best for the assembly line model. You would train a set of people to do a certain thing multiple times. So, do you have account managers who are just handling the clients? Do they just do functional roles like strategizing and talking to the clients and do nothing around the deliverables?

In our company, departments start from the left. Since we are a profit-first company, we have a profit-first finance department. Then we have marketing, which is attraction, then we have sales acquisition, accounts and operations. So it’s left to right. Our accounts department has its head up strategy communication, looking for opportunities, and it’s separated from fulfillment. If they’re involved in fulfillment, they have their head down, making sure work is getting completed. Then they can’t have their head up looking for what the client actually needs. So that’s why we separate them.

Okay. So the accounts team would just talk to the client, strategize, look at competitors. Each account manager is handling, perhaps a multitude of clients. But what kind of numbers do they manage?

We’d like our account managers to manage up to 200,000 MRR per month. Now the size of our accounts could be anywhere from 4 to at most 10 accounts or maybe 12 at the most. So isn’t a tremendous amount of volume that you hear with other agencies where an account manager has 20 or 30. In some situations, we have an account manager who just handles 4, because the accounts are larger.

Do you have a set of things they have to do every single month? Like looking at the competitors or content, because they’re not really doing any production work other than talking to the client. What else do you get your accounts team to look at?

For us primarily, it is content ideation. On the strategic side of content selection, we look at what content needs to be refreshed, whether there’s keyword cannibalism, whether there is missing content. It’s very heavily focused on content. I would say when you’re looking at working with strategic partners, like us, for let’s say link building, what’s an account manager gonna say? Something like, “I want more links?” Backing up on a local perspective, what are they gonna say — “We want more citations?” They don’t have the ability to drive in those areas.

Nowadays clients prefer communicating over different channels. Some prefer Slack, some prefer WhatsApp, some just want you to call them. So, how do you handle your accounts team talking to the clients and then keeping it all together? If someone has to actually see what’s going on in an account, can you just have a quick view at the account director level and analyze it?

In our onboarding series of emails, we ask what is their preferred communication method. Is it email, text, phone or is it Zoom? We try to identify that, and we also try to establish a regular meeting cadence in the onboarding. It is critical. We ask them what day of the month, can they commit 30 minutes to an hour to plan and strategize. It’s not this ad hoc situation where you’re scrambling and trying to figure out a date that works for each other; it’s in the calendar. We also use Loom Videos a lot too. We try to keep our emails more condensed if they’re too long. Nobody wants to read a long email. Pick up the phone, jump on Zoom. In some situations, if the client uses Slack, we use Slack. if the client uses Slack. But for the most part, Zoom and phone.

Has retention ever been an issue for you? Do you find it difficult to retain clients?

No, during COVID last year (2020), we had a couple of pauses. But they came back. We’ve always had a really high retention percentage. I think that’s because of our background. It took me a while to get into the market and do sales. I was always extremely focused on delivering a high-quality result. That’s what has helped us retain.

That’s the best way to grow a company, at least, for the initial phase because it gets you referrals — the best source of clients. What about retaining employees? Employees are the most important asset to a services agency. How do you retain your employees? I saw some very interesting things which you do differently than other agencies in the business. I would love to hear more about how you go above and beyond for your employees, in terms of training and everything else?

There’s a lot that goes into this. Retaining talent is a big issue for a lot of agencies right now. We overpay probably by 10 percent, firstly. Employees get 20 days PTO at the start. I know everyone loves to talk about the unlimited vacation policy. Look at the studies, your employees actually take less time off with us. We encourage our people to take a week off. We do 100% health insurance. We pay every penny of it. We got the IRAs and things like that. We also do an all-hands meeting every month as a remote company. We have a kudos Slack channel. Perfect channel to kudos an individual based upon something that they did well or helpful.
We reimburse certifications courses, provide coaching, have them do a bucket list and try to help them fulfill their bucket list. The most important thing in all this is a culture built on radical transparency. So we discuss everything that we’re doing in the business and trying to accomplish.

That’s great. Because that is one thing that collects everyone together as a company. They can see the vision.

Chris, tell me something you said that the challenges in life are what motivate you. Early on, you faced the challenge of affiliate marketing, and eventually, you overcame it. Then came Penguin. What would have happened if Penguin had never come? Do you think you would still be a kickass affiliate marketer?

I probably would have. I just had so much freedom. And there were so many opportunities. I’m glad at the trajectory I went on. I also had a really interesting poker career too.

I think all these experiences allow you to grow as a human and see opportunities that you didn’t know existed. That’s where books come into, raising those ceilings to see opportunities, but I’m not really sure.

I’m not planning to sell. I am trying to build something spectacular. We want to be known as the SEO agency of choice. We want us to have just our name resonate and ring out when it comes to reputation. So, if I answer what’s next. It’s actually funny, I told my President Steven Willie, I think this year has been too easy.
I said, “Here’s what we’re gonna do. On January 10th, we’re launching four websites, and we’re doing this giant campaign launch.” Because it allows you to focus. When you have this big challenge and huge endeavor, everyone has to get on the same page. It forces you to focus. Instead of launching one site at a time, when it’s a big challenge, it creates momentum and excitement.

Like big hairy, BHAG in the traction.

That’s exactly what we have on the Trello board. It’s BHAG. It’s a big, hairy audacious goal. That’s what we’re doing.

What do you mean by four websites? Is it related to your clients or are they your own websites?

I’ve got a personal website launch. And then I’ve got a website launch for a podcast. We’re launching a second podcast with its own website. It’s coming out in January as well. We got a new rankings website with some really amazing creative, a whole new style rebrand. And we’re actually doing a fifth little launch that centers around a third podcast. The podcasts have been a great outlet for us.

What are the two new podcasts going to be about?

The current one I have is PIM, it’s Personal Injury Mastermind. The second one is LawHer and it’s going to be focused on female attorneys and female entrepreneurs. The third one is going to be a law firm SEO. We wanted an outlet for specific legal SEO tactics that relate to rankings. We’ll have those three, we’re going to create a podcast network and use that on the megaphone.

Okay, so from 10 to 100 million if that’s your next target, do you think that’s still achievable with PI or do you think you’ll have to niche out or add services?

We’re actually going to break out from PI, we’re going to do all legal SEO. We had that tough decision — Do we want to stay with PI and add additional services? Or do we want to stick with our core competency SEO? And that’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to come down to a larger focus on sales and front-end marketing and building a brand. I feel very confident in our lead generation strategies so much so that I think we can do that.

Okay, SEO is so heavily controlled by one company in the world, Google. And it’s not that anyone is doing anything wrong — we are doing anything wrong or you’re doing anything wrong. Even if we are going by the book, the book can get changed tomorrow. This is something that’s not in our control. Does that make you think whether you should go horizontal or double down on SEO? We are an agency, we have software, we have really doubled down on SEO, but I keep on thinking — Is SEO going to be what it is? Is it going to change drastically?

I think it definitely will change with saturation. Doesn’t matter if it’s Google or Apple. There needs to be search engine optimization for your podcast to be discovered. The same goes for YouTube. So, it may change in its iteration.
What if the government comes and breaks Google up and there are multiple search engines? That’s an opportunity. Google also just released the indented listings. They had the passage rankings, now they’re doing these indented. I think there’s a lot of opportunities. When we looked at the decision, we kind of thought of it in two ways. One way, we have relationship equity — that flywheel relationship equity and PI, or we have our productized service — know how to make money, know how to deliver and do the other areas of the law. And we felt that it was riskier to just stick with PI because SEO is more secure from a service perspective than an area of the law perspective. So, I’m hedging by going into other areas of the law. Also, as an entrepreneur, I am heavy in investing. I’m big into real estate, and there are other streams of income from assets. There’s a hedge there too.

Do you do virtual real estate as well? That’s your expertise, right?


What’s your life goal? It doesn’t really need to be a time-bound goal, but something that you want to achieve in life.

Being transparent, my biggest depression is health. I’m really trying to put more energy and focus there. My goal is to leave a legacy and to be a good husband and father. Yeah, that’s my main goal.

Awesome, Chris. Let’s have a quick rapid-fire if you’re up for it.


Describe yourself in three words.

Very competitive person.

What have you done in life, which you’re most proud of?

So I think I am proud of what I have achieved in my business.

That’s an exclusion.

Also, staying close to the family. I have a really great relationship with my family. That’s something I’m really proud of.

Awesome. What’s your favorite hobby?

I love college basketball. I love Star Wars. Those are a couple of the two hobbies.

Do you still play basketball?

A little bit. I used to play for many many years. But I haven’t recently.

What’s your favorite business book?

It’s painful to give one name. But because I have to, I’d say I really like 12 Pillars by Jim Rohn. That’s an amazing read in a day. It just always makes me feel good every time I read it.

Yes, that’s an amazing book. Chris, what is that one thing you wish that your 20-year-old self knew?

Don’t pull that fire alarm in the apartment complex no matter how funny you think it would be. And everything’s gonna work out. Just keep learning, keep focused.

Chris, it was great having you on the show. If anyone from the audience wants to reach out to you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

The social media network I’m most active on is LinkedIn. You can also visit our website

Thanks a lot, Chris Dryer from Thanks for sharing all the knowledge bombs. It was an amazing experience listening to you, talking to you.

Thank you so much for having me.

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