Shame Shame Shame Findlaw

So we all know who Findlaw.com is. Yeah – those guys – the largest legal website out there. In their words:

FindLaw is the #1 online destination serving legal professionals from law firms, corporate in-house legal departments, and government agencies nationwide and globally.

That said I was a bit surprised to find out they are now expanding their service offering in the most logical direction possible: Search Engine Marketing. How do I know this? The sent me a very nice email:

Greetings,

I’d like to help you increase your company’s visibility, rank and penetration within natural search results on major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and more with our new FindLaw Search Engine Marketing Product (SEM-C).

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is the art and science of increasing qualified leads to a Web site from search engines and other Internet sources. When people search, they’re looking for answers. If they receive search results that will get them those answers, they’re more likely to convert into a customer.

Studies by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a respected nonprofit research organization, show that more than 73% of American adults use the Internet. More than 60 million Americans use search engines on any given day according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

The results of implementing this product are to gain more clients by generating more traffic to your company’s Web site and converting those prospects to clients at a high rate.

If you’d like to learn more about our new SEM-C Marketing Product, please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Best Regards,
xxxxx

xxxxx xxxxxxx
Account Executive, Corporate Sales Department

That email isn’t really that bad other than it was unsolicited. My guess is so whois info was harvested from a legal related site I own. So why a post about Findlaw offering SEM? Cuz it gets so much better. Enjoy this email a friend of mine got:

Hi xxxx,

I’m delighted to announce the launch of Findlaw’s new Search Engine
Marketing (SEM) program specifically geared for for legal software and
service providers. Whether you are a software company, a legal
recruiter or an expert witness service, Findlaw’s new SEM product will
help you generate more business from all of the major search engines by
leveraging Findlaw’s authoritative position as the top online
destination serving the Legal Professionals market. The goal of the
SEM program is to help position your natural search results more
prominently on Google, Yahoo and MSN, which account for 90% of all
searches conducted online. SEM is something we have been providing law
firms exclusively for the last 4-5 years, so I am very excited to be
able to offer this impactful program to you.

Here are the details of the program: up to 3 hard coded links will be
placed on editorially relevant pages of content. Links will be placed
at the recommendation of our SEO specialists, who have been assisting
law firms with these programs. They will conduct a brief audit of your
site and submit their link recommendations. You will also be allowed
to submit up to 5 articles to be placed in the area mentioned above.
Each article will have a hard coded link. So essentially the program
consists of 8 hard coded links on relevant, high value pages of Findlaw.

We will provide a White Paper that explains how to write web and SEO
friendly content and a White Paper detailing standard SEO practices.
We will also provide a piece that explains how you can monitor
performance, as value is determined by increased traffic to your site.

The program is set up for 12 months with the option to cancel by
providing a 30 day notice at any point after the first 30 days (minimum
60 day run required). The cost is $1k per month for the package. We
have 5 different SEM modules to choose from: Legal Forms/DIY (4
remaining) , Legal Experts/Consultants, Legal Technology, Legal Careers
(3 remaining) and Corporate Counsel / In-House Legal.

Please let me know if you would like to secure one of these. We have a
limited number of programs available.

Regards,
xxxx xxxxxx
Findlaw.com
xxx-xxx-xxxx

xxxx xxxxxx

Account Executive

Holy crap! Is it 2002 again? That’s just a straight up link buy on a high PR site. The price isn’t too bad – 3 links for $1000. I can practically hear Matt Cutts firing up his burn tools right now.

Hold on. It gets better. I’ve managed to get my grubby paws on a copy of the word document that outlines the whole program. I’ll just highlight the fun bits below:

Product Elements for SEM-C
The SEM-C product runs for 12 months and includes the following:
1) Link modules – to be placed on relevant content pages. The product includes 3 links.

Link placement will be determined by chosen audience segments/industries which are as follows:
o Legal Technology
o Corporate Counsel
o Career/Education
o DIY (Do It Yourself) – i.e., Forms, Contracts, etc.
o Experts – i.e., Expert Witnesses, Practice Support & Consultants, etc.
An advertiser selects an audience segment/industry and then FindLaw’s engineering team will place links on contextually relevant pages. These links will appear on pre-determined buckets of pages and are chosen at FindLaw’s discretion.

2) Articles that appear in various sections and are provided by the customer. This product includes up to 5 articles. Articles will contain a hard coded link to advertiser’s web site. Like the link modules, placement is determined by audience segments and at the discretion of FindLaw.

3) White Paper detailing standard SEO practices. Advertiser can use these practices to optimize their site, and thus improve and monitor traffic. The value of this product is determined by increased traffic to a Web site.

Ok – so we’re selling text link ads and embedding links in articles. Pretty standard fare. Next…

FindLaw can measure page views to advertiser’s articles but with the SEM-C product, the Corporate Team will not be able to monitor traffic to the advertiser’s web site. The advertiser will need to track this performance.

The advertiser will need to track? So that means no redirects, counters etc. A nice straight up text link.

Next and last if the Creative Suggestion section of the document that helps the customer determine how to decide what goes in their anchor text. I’ll just past the whole thing but I guarantee you have a chuckle points 1,2 and 3 like I did.

Search engines consider anchor text when evaluating inbound link quality so it is important that this text is optimized appropriately. Anchor text is highlighted words on a page that link to another web page or resource. Clicking on the text, called hypertext, loads the linked resource in the user’s browser. Anchor text is important to the user and should describe the content of the target page and subject matter.

Before creating anchor text, keyword research is the first thing that should be done. What are people searching on that relate to a product or service? After answering this question, decide on the terms that would be most effective. By identifying pages through relevant keyword links, you are “telling” the search engine which keywords the linked pages represent. An inbound link that includes keywords in the link title (anchor text) is more important than a link that just says “click here.”

Anchor text will be successful if the guidelines below are followed:
1. Do what’s best for the user
2. Make it easily understood by the user
3. Don’t try to hide your intentions
4. Be honest about the anchor text. What it says is what you should get.
5. Avoid “stop words” such as and, with, by, from etc.
6. Mix and match the keyword phrases targeted through anchor links in order to associate keyword phrases with specific internal pages

It’s been nice knowing you Findlaw.

Unfortunately the reality here is that Findlaw won’t be going anywhere but it’s likely their links won’t be worth $1000 a month anymore. Damn shame really. That was a hell of a price. The should have stayed underground and partnered with a decent broker.

I Bought A Toy – Flip Mino