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    At Juris Digital we insist on aligning with our clients on their goals before we commit to a project.

    When a client tells us that their primary goal is to “beat their competition” or “rank higher than my competitors”, we typically end the conversation right there (and we’ve regretted it when we haven’t). Why? Because beating your competition is an awful goal.

    “If you’re the kind of person who needs an enemy to be productive, don’t choose another company as your competition. Your customer’s pain is the enemy. If you can’t latch on to that, odds are, neither can your customer.”Alex Hillman (The Tiny MBA)

    A generally accepted way to set effective goals is to use the SMART method, according to which goals should be:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-bound

    “Beating my competition” is precisely zero of these things.

    It’s not specific.

    What do you mean by “beat”? Do you want to make more profit than they do? Do you want to have happier clients than they do? Do you want to earn more of the capturable market than them?

    We’ve found that when a client wants to beat their competition, they often don’t have any objective definition for what that means. In the absence of a specific definition, what the client wants is to see their website above their competitor’s website any time they search keywords that they are convinced matter to their business.

    Which leads right into…

    It’s not measurable (especially for SMB law firms).

    Law firms are privately held businesses, which means you almost certainly have no reliable data about how your competition actually performs compared to you.

    “But I have rank tracking reports!”

    “Unless you specifically sell industry analysis, you are almost certainly wasting time paying attention to what other businesses (who are not your customers) are doing.” Alex Hillman, The Tiny MBA

    When we’ve had these competitor-infatuated clients in the past, they tend to latch on to a few keywords and then proceed to track the rankings of those keywords obsessively to see where they rank in relation to their competition, and they feel like they are measuring the progress of their “goal”.

    In addition to being a terrible predictor of actual business outcomes, there are major issues with using rank tracking as a way to measure whether you are achieving your business goals, including that it’s a moving target.

    Whether you or not you rank higher for specific keywords at a specific point in time, from a specific location, is an entirely unreliable way to determine whether or not you are “beating” your competition. Why? Because keyword rankings don’t tell you anything about bottom-line business outcomes (ie. making money).

    Do you know what is measurable? How much money you’ve made over the past 12 months of an SEO investment compared to how much money you made prior to making the SEO investment? The amount of money your business makes over a given time period is highly measurable.

    It’s not attainable.

    If you can’t ever actually know whether you are beating your competition (you can’t), then you can’t ever achieve it (except in your own mind). Beating your competition is not an attainable goal because it’s impossible to know when you’ve achieved it.

    It’s not relevant.

    The overarching goal of any business is to make money. So, if your goal is to make $1M dollars next year, congratulations, you have a relevant goal! It also happens to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

    Imagine telling your partners that your 2023 goal is to “beat your competition”. I imagine the first question you’d get is how much “beating the competition” will increase the value of their shares.

    It’s not time-bound.

    Even if it were specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant (it’s not), there is no finish line to “beating your competition”. How will you know when you can cross it off your list and move on to another goal? And when you do, won’t your competition quickly regain the upper hand and soon be “beating” you?

    Here are better goals that we can work with:

    • I want to double my revenue from last year.
    • I want to reduce irrelevant leads and increase qualified leads
    • I want to bring in more DUI defense business
    • I want to reduce my cost per acquisition by 10%
    • I want to improve my conversion rate by 20%
    • I want to increase my in-state traffic by 50%

    These are smart goals. If you have goals like this, let’s talk.

    Matt Green Hi, I'm Matt. I am the Chief Strategy Officer here at Juris Digital. I love SEO, content marketing, and brand development, and I am so grateful that my job is to help exceptional lawyers deploy these marketing tools to help more people. If you have specific topics you'd like to discuss with me, please feel free to email me.
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