Zach Thompson – Podcast Transcript
Louis Goodman: Today Love Thy Lawyer talks to Zach Thompson. Zach is the President of MediaSmack, a company that focuses on website development for lawyers and for assisting lawyers and law firms in gaining marketing advantage. We’re going to talk about a few different subjects, including website design, SEO campaigns, pay per click advertising, online marketing and internet best practices.
And we’ll touch on a host of other law, business and marketing issues. We’ll also discuss some strategies for dealing with these kinds of marketing and law business issues. Full disclosure. I’ve worked with Zach and Media Smack for years, and they’ve put together the LouisGoodman.com website.
Zach Thompson welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Zach Thompson: Thank you, Louis. I’m actually really excited to be here.
Louis Goodman: Good. So tell me a little bit about your background, where you grew up, where you went to school, what your education is.
Zach Thompson: Sure, so I was actually born in West Texas and as a preteen, I ended up moving out to Northern California.
We lived everywhere from the Central Valley to Sacramento. And then about two years ago, we decided to move back to Dallas.
Louis Goodman: So you’re living back in Texas now?
Zach Thompson: I am, yes. I live about 30 minutes, right outside of Dallas.
Louis Goodman: And you work for a company called Media Smack. And matter of fact, you’re the president of Media Smack.
Is that correct?
Zach Thompson: That’s correct. Yes. We started Media Smack back in 2013 and originally I started it with a good friend of mine who had worked with, at other companies. And about two years ago, I ended up buying him out. And now I’m the sole president.
Louis Goodman: You and I met, and I have this uncanny ability to remember just about everyone, my first encounter with them. And my first encounter with you was at a restaurant in Jack London Square, Scott’s, where you had invited me and a number of other attorneys to a business lunch to discuss what was then really the cutting-edge technology of. lawyer websites and SEO campaigns. And you were working for another company at that time.
Do you recall that?
Zach Thompson: I was, yes. I do remember that day. Yes. I was working at Lexus Nexus, the division of Martindale Hubbell that was doing similar items to what we do now, Media Smack, and yeah, I will always remember. You have a great memory and you were always what I considered more of the cutting-edge lawyers as well.
Louis Goodman: Well, thank you. So what exactly does internet marketing entail? And can you walk us a little bit through the setting up of the website and the SEO process and tell us what exactly is SEO? What does that stand for?
Zach Thompson: Sure. So SEO stands for search engine optimization. All that basically means in so many words is that when someone goes to do a search on the internet, let’s say through a search engine like Google, when you’re doing a search, they’re going to have results that pop up. What search engine optimization is, is there’s some ads that’ll pop up on most searches. Let’s say for a lawyer, you’ll have some maps settings that pop up as well beneath those advertisements.
And then you’ll have the organic section that comes up underneath. And so there’s really three ways that somebody can be found when you do a search result. That’s what search engine optimization is in a quick rundown.
Louis Goodman: When you design a website. Do you think about the search engine optimization in designing the website and what goes into that design?
Zach Thompson: Sure. It’s really important when you’re developing a website, obviously there’s two rules of thumb. There’s one where the consumer, what the consumer is going to see what the client, what one of our personal clients let’s say, wants to have their site look like. And that’s from the user experience standpoint.
Now, the other part you have to think about is the design. The speed, how it’s built again, back to user experience, but you have to think about how am I going to optimize this site? How am I going to make sure that Google reads it? Because that’s really what it is. Google’s reading and crawling all over your site to make sure that you can come up well for a particular search.
And so you have to make sure that there’s, hundreds of factors that go into building out a website the appropriate way. And it’s really important that you’re following those best standards and best practices from Google.
Louis Goodman: I know you’ve talked to me about this a little bit. I can’t say I’ve ever really completely understood it, but there’s certain backend things and kind of invisible pages in a well-constructed website is that correct?
Zach Thompson: There are anything from, to make it simplistic. Anything for me, even having, let’s say with your practice, you’re a criminal defense lawyer. And so you have your criminal defense practice. And then within that, even as in building out a website, if I was talking about your domestic violence page or DUI page, any other sub area of practice page, those have to be structured in a format that makes it easy for Google to read, because what we see is this wonderful website.
On the backend, what Google sees is a bunch of different code. And so you have to make sure the code, the structure, et cetera, is all submitted the appropriate way in order to number one rank. Well, but number two, give off a good user experience because without a good user experience, Google really is not giving you as much push towards the top of the page as others.
Louis Goodman: Zach, can you tell me a little bit about online marketing and how that works?
Zach Thompson: Sure thing. So a lot of different component can be done online. We talked briefly about having a website, having search engine optimization, SEO. There’s also pay per click advertisements. Those are Google AdWords. It’s a budgetary process.
It’s the ads that you see. On top of Google, whenever you do a particular search, that’s pretty simplistic. You give Google an ad budget, and then from there they’ll run the appropriate ads and you monitor and maintain them. There is social media marketing that you can do with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I’m even seeing lawyers now doing things on Snapchat, as well as doing things on tiktok.
So it’s always ever changing another type of advertising online. That is not as utilized as in my opinion, as it should be is video. Right.
Louis Goodman: How does that work? How does the video advertising work?
Zach Thompson: Sure. So it’s in multiple different ways that you can utilize video advertising. You can either have a main video of, let’s say one to three minutes that you put on your website.
You can have it in your email, signature, those types of things, or you can cut several different videos, uh, client testimonials. 30 to 60 second spots that you can have. On your website, let’s say you have a domestic violence page. You can have a video explaining why to call you for as a domestic violence lawyer or any type of very practice.
So that’s how they’re utilizing videos a lot.
Louis Goodman: On your website you talk about something called internet best practices. What do you mean by that?
Zach Thompson: So again, like we talked about with Google and how when you’re building a website, they have different parameters. We have to follow the best practices for Google, but also we have to follow the best practices in general, for ethics, especially dealing with the legal industry.
Louis Goodman: How did you happen to get interested in this type of work?
Zach Thompson: So funny enough, I actually, years ago began, I went in and did an interview and began selling yellow page advertising.
Louis Goodman: I remember those days.
Zach Thompson: Yeah, yeah. It was funny to me; I was unaware that the advertising costs any money. So I very quickly learned that the advertisements were so expensive and part of my youth was selling advertising, but it was right when the internet was getting big.
And back then we were selling one, three or five page websites. So if you can imagine not large sites whatsoever. So one of my jobs was to help, help the folks that and wanted to still maintain advertisements. But I was such a believer in the internet that I began putting a lot of those programs online.
And then from there eventually made my way at Lexus Nexus. Back when I was with Yellow Pages, I was dealing a lot with the lawyers that were from our books and was helping a lot of different branches close out those books and make those movements over to the internet. Because it was so new and then went over to Lexus, did the same thing for Martindale Hubbell and then eventually made our way to Media Smack.
Louis Goodman: I know that you and Media Smack, I don’t know whether you personally have, I know someone you work with, Sean, has done some presentations for the Alameda County Bar Association, so that lawyers could come to a presentation that Media Smack put on. And I certainly appreciate you guys doing that because it’s interesting and informative for lawyers to hear that kind of thing. But I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the Alameda County Bar Association presentations.
Zach Thompson: So we did speaking events a lot throughout the country prior to COVID. We had several setup with even large bar organizations and their leadership groups.
One of the things that we talk about in Alameda with, at that bar association is the fact that everybody’s familiar and it’s more of a technology niche group area as compared to other parts of the country. So one thing that we talk about is a big statement, which is why Google doesn’t trust you. And one reason why we bring that up is because a lot of lawyers don’t always understand that, although they’ve been practicing for quite some time, or maybe they’ve split from a firm of some kind.
Although they have ethics and they have been in this industry for quite some time. From a website standpoint and from an SEO standpoint, Google doesn’t quite trust you yet. And what our goal is with that presentation is to talk to you about ways to build trust, just like a relationship with Google.
Louis Goodman: So how does that work? How do you build trust with Google?
Zach Thompson: So one of the things that you have to do is you have to make sure that you’re submitting the right information. You have to make sure that again, even going back to the website, the appropriate standards and how you built your site, you want to start giving Google information about your firm.
You want to start getting listed. On several different sites throughout the internet. Now, some folks will just say we build backlinks. That’s not exactly what we’re talking about. It’s creating backlinks, but it’s following all the standards. It’s also, if you’re going to, let’s say build some links that are, go to your website.
You’re not going too fast and too quick with Google. I’ve seen it so many times where a firm has gone straight to page one. And then they fallen off and gone to page five when you do a search and it happens so quickly and it’s because they’re not following those standards. It’s like a relationship you don’t want to move too fast, too quickly.
You want to follow the right steps. And by doing that, you’re building trust. Another thing that we do for some clients is we do things like guest blogging. Well, if you were, if you’ve been a lawyer for 20 plus years, it was in articles you were featured, let’s say in an article. So that was a really respectable thing.
And now with the internet, we’re able to do those same types of programs, but do it more from a guest blogging standpoint where we can feature you and then send out that information. And what you’re doing is you’re showing Google that you’re linking well with others and then the third linking well with you.
And again, it’s kind of like being good on the playground if you’re working well with everyone and everyone’s sharing Google seems to like that on a personal level.
Louis Goodman: What do you like about the work that you do?
Zach Thompson: One of the things that I really care about is following through with the things that I say that I’m going to do.
And that is why we actually started Media Smack because we were tired of going out and talking with lawyers in any community. And that was the same thing over and over. We continue to hear, they had signed up for a service regardless of the company and that they felt that the service wasn’t being performed.
And so what we did at Media Smack is we wanted to start this company doing what we knew how to do in a great way, and actually fulfill. The promises that people tell people they’re going to do. And so one of the things that I want to make sure, always I enjoy dealing and interacting with different types of lawyers.
It’s a great group., I think you have to have the knack for it. They’re highly educated folks. They need to be talked to a certain way. I’ve made a lot of friends over the years with so many different lawyers throughout the country.
Louis Goodman: So if someone was just coming out of college and was looking for a career, do you think that going into a career doing the kind of work that Media Smack does is something that you would recommend?
Zach Thompson: I do. I think that it would be great for somebody who is just graduating from college to get into the world of internet marketing. I think it could be done. And if done right. And I wouldn’t necessarily start my own business necessarily because it does take time and it takes success from previous endeavors to do well and for a lawyer to feel comfortable with it.
But I think great is that if somebody learns how to do this, they can help a firm later on, let’s say that they were going to law school. They could go and help a firm that they’re working at and they could help. Gain more on their paycheck from that, obviously doing more and be little bit more dependable with those firms, but also it teaches you marketing in general and some of the best firms in the country that I’ve seen, know what they’re doing via marketing.
It’s tough out there. And especially with the COVID times, you know, if you don’t have a good word of mouth system and a lot of marketing that turns into clients which turns into word of mouth, I think it’d be great for anybody young to get involved with it.
Louis Goodman: How has actually doing this work met or different from your expectations?
Zach Thompson: I’ve never would have thought that we would have grown to our size and the amount of time I had expectations of growing. And I’ve always said that I would never want to get to the size of a company or I don’t know my clients by first name basis. I never want my clients to feel that they are just client number 86203
And so I’ve been really, really fortunate having a fantastic team. I have some of the best people that are out in the business right now. And from an expectation standpoint, it’s met and exceeded all of our goals.
Louis Goodman: What kind of stuff keeps you up at night?
Zach Thompson: So I’m a dad. I worry about that.
Especially right now during the times that we’re in, I worry about my kids and what the new normal is going to be.
Louis Goodman: What if you came into some real money, I mean, somehow or other two, $3 billion landed in your lap. What if anything would you do different in your life?
Zach Thompson: Sure. So I would probably do one of two things.
I would either continue doing exactly what I’m doing, because I think that so many folks stop working and stop doing the things that are normal and they kind of get away from it. And I mean, although it would be very lavish and fantastic. God’s been really good to us. We have a beautiful home, beautiful family. Everyone’s healthy. I really, I’m not a materialistic person, so I don’t really need to go spend all of that, but I would probably either do that or funny enough, I would probably go and coach high school football because I’m a big sports guy and it would be great to not have to worry about financial pieces that are involved with having to work and just go back and help kids get better and be a mentor to them as they go through those times.
Louis Goodman: I remember once asking you that question some time ago and you gave me a slightly different answer. So. Well, I’m just going to tell you what it was. Because I’ve asked this question to lots of people, not just on the podcast. It’s one of my questions. And I remember your answer because I thought it was one of the better answers I’d gotten.
And you said, and I’m wondering if you still agree with this, that you’d set up a really nice home gym and hire a personal instructor to come by on a routine basis to work with you.
Zach Thompson: Absolutely. I could tell you, it would be fantastic to have that. I still would follow suit with that.
Absolutely. To be able to have an at home chef and a personal trainer come to your house. That’d be great.
Louis Goodman: Well, if let’s say you had a magic wand, you could change one thing in the world, whether it’s in the marketing world or in the legal world, or just in the world in general, and you could wave that magic wand and have a change, what would you like to see changed?
Zach Thompson: Hmm. With the magic wand? One thing that I’d really like to see is for everybody to be more open to others’ ideas. I’m a very big outside the box thinker. And I think that whether it’s myself or whether it’s someone I’m listening to, or whether it’s just folks in general, especially in society, I think it’d be great if we could have a little bit more patience with folks.
And sometimes I feel some of the best ideas are ones that sound crazy. Out front, whenever we picked the name Media Smack, for example, I thought it was a crazy idea and it ended up being fantastic. So I would just say if I could wave a magic wand, it would be to listen to some of the outlandish ideas and give some of them a chance.
Louis Goodman: We talk a lot these days about the corporate environment or the business environment or the work environment. Can you tell us a little bit about what the environment is like in the Media Smack universe?
Zach Thompson: Sure. So we’re a predominantly, a women run company. Everybody on my senior management team is a woman, we have fun, fantastic groups of people I’m so lucky to have gotten some of the folks that work for us.
I attribute all of our success to my team, to the folks that are out there doing what we do every single day. We like to have fun. And even if you go to our about us page, for example, you’ll hover over one of our photos and we have, if you hover over, there’s all these different things that everyone does.
We have our serious picture and then we kind of have our fun picture. And so I think keeping it as a good culture of everybody getting along, holding people accountable.
Louis Goodman: How big a company is a Media Smack now?
Zach Thompson: So we have 20 employees here at Media Smack.
Louis Goodman: So if I were to hover over Zach Thompson, what kinds of recreational things would come up for what you like to do?
Zach Thompson: So I am a coach first and foremost. So even on our website, if you hover over my photo, I’m holding a clipboard, a track, a whistle, a football. I coach I have three kids. I’ve coached all three of them, many different times.
I’m a coach first and foremost. If I could have had a golf club in there, I’d love to. I would love to have that in there, but it didn’t go with the photo. And then funny enough, I enjoy fishing. My sons love it. So we go fishing often. And then once we moved to Texas, I don’t know what it was, but my wife decided all of a sudden that she wanted to be kind of a little rancher. So we actually funny enough have several farm animals here at the house as well, too. She’s interesting. Never would’ve thought that would be the case.
Louis Goodman: What kind of animals?
Zach Thompson: So we have a miniature Longhorn, a miniature mule. We have about 16 chickens, two dogs, two cats.
And then we have six fainting goats.
Louis Goodman: What’s a fainting goat?
Zach Thompson: A fainting goat is a goat that when it becomes startled, the legs literally tense up and faint. And sometimes after you’ve had a tough week or you’ve just in general, just need to go out and smile and laugh. It is fun to watch those goats run around and faint.
Louis Goodman: Zach Thompson. Thanks so much for joining us today on Love Thy Lawyer. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and I really appreciate your insights.
Thanks so much, Louis. Glad to have been a part of it. I love what you’re doing, I think it’s a great thing, to have this podcast .