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.

Comments

  1. Cool, can I get their contact info? 😉

  2. lmao.. dumbasses.. i can tell they finally hired an SEO.. you should have seen the crap they used ot push to my legal clients.

  3. Oh Snap! Why do I feel like I just watched a segment of ‘Problem Solvers’ on the news? Nice work Todd…

  4. Too Funny! Those silly link sellers. This opens up a lot of opportunities. 🙂

    I cant wait to read the next chapter.

    What a great *Find*

  5. As if the unsolicited e-mail wasn’t enough of a give away. The rest is like stealing a car in front of a cop…or perhaps like stealing a cop car! I wonder if they went ahead and sent this e-mail directly to Google. HAHA! Well done, Findlaw…well done!

  6. Oh it’s worse than that. If they follow their pattern, they will just add these services to the Attorney’s monthly bill for the Attorney Listing.

    We came up against them when wanting to work with Lawyers on their web sites for design and development. It was so frustrating explaining to otherwise very bright people that paying Findlaw.com a monthly amount, would just mean they would be renting their web site at sometimes three times the yearly amount.

    It was an uphill battle educating the legal community about what the risk FindLaw is bringing on their heads. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  7. Yup, somebody forwarded that email to me too. 🙂

  8. @MattCutts – yeah, I didn’t think I needed to send it to you. Was pretty sure you had it covered – LOL

  9. Trontastic says:

    I’m really at a loss for words here. I almost had to put on some Creed to really get into the flash back. Brandt Dainow shoudl have added this tactic to his post “7 Ways SEO Consultants Rip Off Their Clients” – http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/20231.asp

    Cheers!

    @trontastic

  10. “I love it when a plan comes together!”

    thanks for giving them the smackdown Matt and crew

  11. Well it was just a matter of time they do lots of spam deals. Well who will be next? mmmm … well could be some money left on the table now how will pick it up? LexisNexis,einsteinlaw .. we will see..

  12. Tina – been there, done that! Beating your head against a wall gets real old.

    I’ll even admit to rubbing my hands in glee right now in anticipation of Act II.

  13. So – how might this impact FindLaw’s current website clients who are listed in the FindLaw directory with link, and buy advertising in various sections of Findlaw.com with links back to their website. Is it just losing the link juice or can something more dramatic happen (to FindLaw client sites)?

  14. That’s funny, I wonder how many links they sold. Great find!

  15. Chicago Attorney says:

    This is bigger than you think….findlaw has been selling links to their law firm customers for almost two years now calling it SEM Advantage program. Prices range from $2000 to $3000 per month for each area of law or city. What happens to these unsuspecting clients’ sites? Will they be downgraded by Google, too?

  16. FormerFL Rep says:

    This is only part of deal, they have been selling these links on the web for almost 2 years. Findlaw limits the number they sell and they are charging anywhere from $1600/month to $2500/month. This has given some customers up to a 300% increase in traffic. They are placing links on the following sites.

    http://www.lawyermarketing.com
    http://www.legalconnection.com
    http://www.findlaw.com
    they are also being placed in the findlaw blog and in the corporate counsel center.

    When Findlaw released this product they set a record in sales sold almost 3 million in links in a one month period. Last May they released 60 units at 600 to 800 per month and sold them all in 90 minutes. This is a major part of the Findlaw value and they limit inventory until they need a sales spike and then they release more. I believe usually around October and March. If anyone wants more details I have everything you want to know.

  17. The same day I first saw that offer from Findlaw, a client got a similar proposal from Qwest (a regional phone company and web player) so I had a phone call with them (Qwest). Further investigation showed them doing the same thing, and I was pretty stunned.

    To make matters worse, they were actually allowing businesses to link to not just their main site pages, but any links they want, to any other profile pages etc.

    The links we not no followed at that time, but less than a week later, they were, so we passed –

    Um… I mean we passed in the first place, once I saw they were selling links 😉

  18. Todd,
    Good to see you staying out of trouble by getting others into it. Looks like you are having fun 🙂

    Dan Hall

  19. It’s been going on a lot longer than 2 years. It was time.

    Plan the work and work the plan.

    Matt – let me know next time you are in fly over and we can drink some red wine and kick a little Dead…

    Busted, down on Bourbon Street
    Set up, like a bowling pin
    Knocked down, it gets to wearin’ thin
    They just won’t let you be

  20. 'da record straight says:

    Are you people on Findlaw’s payroll? Only reason I ask is because you are giving them lots of free PR. A cynical person might even think that their emails were so obtuse that they might have been intended. Could someone there really be that smart? You see, lawyers don’t care about all of your incessant babbling. Frankly they don’t even care about your silly little blog. They care about billable hours. They care about making money. They care about being able to take their clients to the yacht club, heinekens, macanudos and lots of referrals. They don’t concern themselves with Google’s algorithms and webmaster guidelines, of which you apparently have shoved in the front pocket of your parachute pants. Attorneys hire Findlaw to send them clients. Findlaw does that by taking advantage of Google. I say good for them. Attorneys need Findlaw. Otherwise they’d be paying ridiculous sums of money on Google’s silly PPC programs. Google is not the law. An attorney will be the first to tell you that. The fact that you have now announced Findlaw exploits Google gives attorneys even more of a reason to use them. Nice job. I’m not a Findlaw fan but sometimes it is best just to simply shut up and ignore the obvious.

  21. former FL Rep says:

    that is what Findlaw gets for hiring a bad sales person to run its search engine marketing department, way to go SM you always said SEMA was your idea, Good Luck Findlaw finally your greedy ways are catching up with you. If you only thought about taking care of the customer instead of how much profit you could make

  22. Crash Override says:

    Too funny.

    A multi billion dollar company makes a mistake and you vultures are all over it.

    Somehow I higly doubt this will impact any of their customers or any of their sales numbers. It’s like telling Microsoft they screwed up. A small blurb here or there in the blogosphere just isn’t that big of a deal to a company this big.

    If you want to take down FindLaw or impact its business you’re going to have to do much better than this.

  23. FormerFL Rep says:

    Findlaw is trying to brush this under the table, they say you are talking about a totally differnet program the corporate program and they have refunded all the corporate customers money and cancelled the program. They have give the reps a list of talking points to handle customer concerns. The truth is they are selling links to lawfirm customers on 3 different sites and now they are trying to cover it up. Google needs to take a close look because Findlaw is scamming them again

  24. As a publisher I only have one thing to say – WOW!

  25. Plenty of lawyers have lots to be concerned about…Google’s law rules the roost online.

  26. @’da record straight

    Right On! Google can’t have webmasters selling links because then Google’s protection racket of AdWords would not be worth as much.

    You people that think that what FindLaw did was “bad” and Google is “good” are gullible, gullible, sheep.

  27. @ ‘da record straight

    This is an issue that needs to be brought up so yes, Google should know about it and no, people should not shut up about it. The links packages sold to lawyers for example are over $20,000 (they are required to sign a one year contract). When Google takes away the ability of those links to now give any link juice, you have lawyers stuck in a contract paying for something that won’t help them at all. Would you want to pay that kind of money for nothing? I don’t think so.

    No, most lawyers don’t understand Internet marketing, Google algorithms or even know about webmaster guidelines. That’s even more of a reason that Findlaw has a responsibility to do the right thing for their clients because they know Google is hands down the best source for generating new business via a search engine. No, Google is not the law but it’s their playground. They make the rules if someone wants to play there. And no this will not give them more business. This will hurt their business pretty bad when all their competitors use it against them (and they will). Atorneys who hear about this are less likely to work with a company that is only converned with their own bottom line (and not worried about the client at all).

  28. Ouch — and this bad pub comes on the heels of all that fine PR for FindLaw, about the stickiness of video content on law firm’s websites (just google: 4.8 video findlaw). We did a series on SEO myths and addressed paid links — maybe the whole series should have been on this topic! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxXVNACztf4

  29. Frankly I dont see whats wrong with selling a link..so what? If I want to buy a link and someone wants to sell a link…hows to say I cannot? You say Google says that we cant do that? Fuk Google, who the fuk are they to tell me what to buy or sell? They dont own the web, they dont own my browser and they dont own my site, findlaw’s site or any site. Screw Google. Some of you follow Google like they are god when they are the ones printing money.

  30. FormerFL Rep says:

    Here is an example of some of the links Findlaw is selling check out this page.

    http://www.legalconnection.com/criminal-law.html This is one of the sites they are selling links on, go to Findlaw and select Criminal, Family, Personal Injury and look at the links on the bottom of the page that says featured lawyers those are the 2k links

    I see Findlaw’s pagerank was restored but they are not telling the whole truth. They even say they are selling links on their brochure.

  31. News Hound says:

    I see findlaw just launched a job matching channel for legal professionals with Realmatch, cheezhead broke the news yesterday:

    http://www.cheezhead.com/2008/08/29/realmatch-partner-findlaw/

  32. It’s totally shame. Why they were doing this they will be penalized very soon.

  33. You people are pathetic. FindLaw builds the best sites for attorneys out there. Nobody can compete with FindLaw and that is why you are so happy. Did FindLaw make a mistake? I have no idea and I don’t really care. I have an idea for you small minded people, instead of trying to find one tiny thing wrong with another company why not go out and build a better legal website? Oh that’s right, you can’t. It must be infuriating that you people are so pathetic. 90% of you losers probably STILL haven’t touched a girl.

  34. Part of me is flabbergasted that Findlaw did this. Part of me is not surprised.

  35. Lawyers should lawyer.
    Legal research co’s should provide legal research tools.
    SEOs should do SEO.

    Or so it appears.
    The amazing part about this is that it is just SOOOOOOooo obvious and outdated. It’s like someone read 5 or 6 decent, but very dated, posts about link-buying for SEO and came up with a new co. policy.

    Maybe it still works when a co. like this is doing it, but it seems way, way, way outmoded to me.

  36. Hi, I found your blog on this new directory of WordPress Blogs at blackhatbootcamp.com/listofwordpressblogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, i duno. Anyways, I just clicked it and here I am. Your blog looks good. Have a nice day. James.

  37. Don’t the legal guys know about the CANSPAM laws? Sounds like they got some guys right out of college to handle the marketing of this.

  38. Findlaw is also notoriously overpriced and while many of the sites look nice, their SEO leaves much to be desired. Its actually really bad. The information they gave to a high end criminal attorney here was useless.

  39. Well, well all those spammers around. Why don´t they show how effective their SEO-services are by demonstrating it with their own website? Findlaw seems to be a very, very serious!

  40. It’s a shame that the big corporate websites like this one get away with selling links and rarely get caught doing it. I know if somebody small like me tried doing it, I’d get slapped so fast my head would spin.

  41. So – how might this impact FindLaw’s current website clients who are listed in the FindLaw directory with link, and buy advertising in various sections of Findlaw.com with links back to their website. Is it just losing the link juice or can something more dramatic happen (to FindLaw client sites)?

  42. In my opinion, FindLaw is a very unethical company. They represent multiple, multiple clients in the same market, yet promise them all high rankings. I don’t see how that works…if there are only ten listings on the first page of Google, yet FindLaw has 20 or 30 clients in the same market… Must be some of that new math – squeeze 30 pegs into 10 holes. So this link selling business really isn’t all that surprising.

    Jerry Work
    WorkMedia.net

  43. It’s a good piece of job you’ve done, Todd!
    The greatest find I ever manage to observe…
    I’m speechless…, only emotions are present 🙂

  44. Has anything been done about these guys yet? Googles lack of action on this matter certainly leaves something to be desired…

  45. I heard they were selling firmsites for like $5000 or more per month. If you want a profile listing, you don’t get the link juice. You are forced to spend the dough for the link juice.

  46. WOW, I am so glad to have found this post!!!

    I focus my business on helping attorneys develop more traffic to their sites, and have found these actual links spoken of. Further, my tools will allow me to test a sites optimization, and I HAVE YET TO SEE A WEBSITE OF THEIRS THAT HAS STRONG PLACEMENT, OR HAS A COMPLETE OPT……

    THIS IS HOT!

  47. Can some one email me prof they are selling links? I have seen links on their clients sites but need proof they are selling them…

    tbates@absoluteplacementtoday.com

  48. WOW, I have seen many of their websites, and they do design a nice site, however, they are selling Natural Search Engine optimization as a service as well. Their fees are not quoted anywhere I could find but was told their fees start at around 15k. One attorney in Austin Texas I spoke to said he paid 17,500.00 and 8 months later still no placement.

  49. LOL i think a lot of people like to sell links but that is a wrong way. They should do normal work 😉

  50. Dirty Rotten scoundrels.

    I hope that they are google-slapped damn hard for that underground link-selling.

    I wonder how many other big corporations operate in the same way?

  51. I am really numb, i have no words.. its really a big shame for such a prestigeous company.

  52. ok…..Thanks for telling about site… If you want a profile listing, you don’t get the link juice. You are forced to spend the dough for the link juice. 🙂

  53. OK so they sell links. But most of you guys forgot to spot something much more sinister. They take as much lawyers as the possibly can from a certain city and sell their SEO services. Even that would be OK if they weren’t competing for the same keywords. Yeah, shame on them:)

  54. Selling links is a major deal. I am beginning to even think that reciprocal links really aren’t worth it. Either way, I think buying and selling links is really unethical and for some reason, it really bothers me because this goes back to the whole money deal.

    Whoever has more money will rank well on Google. That’s just not right. It still happens for people still pay for SEO services, but again, that’s still bothersome.

  55. i know some of the lawyers with criminal background and help criminals to get them off from cases. i don’t think lawyers are something special born and are to be regarded as high in society. the lawyers themselves are involved in criminal activities then how can they be regarded as good person in society.

  56. This is hilarious… These guys are pretty sharp. So not only are they violated Google’s policies, and selling a product that doesn’t really work, apparently $1,700 a month doesn’t even buy the attention to detail to get it done right!

    On this page: http://www.legalconnection.com/criminal-law.html

    The ANCHOR text (which is supposed to be the keywords) has the URL, and when you click on it, it takes you to an error page, because instead of the URL being entered into the URL field, they entered the anchor text… BRILLIANT! So $1,700 a month, and we’ll sell you a link to scam Google, but we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to put the Anchor text and URL in the right place…far too busy counting money.

    Idiots.

  57. I’m not surprised by this. I have always felt something was a bit shady about findlaw.

  58. ya, thanks for sharing about the selling link in the net.
    For you we got some information.
    pagerank 4
    thanks a lot

  59. That move wasn't very smart of them

Trackbacks

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  9. […] a boost in rankings will lose its power to give any more “link juice” to your site. Todd Friesen, one of the best SEO’s in the industry, noted these emails that Findlaw was sending […]

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  11. […] recently came under scrutiny for trying to sell links to local law firms. Make the pitch to a few thousand lawyers and only one […]

  12. […] recently came under scrutiny for trying to sell links to local law firms. Make the pitch to a few thousand lawyers and only one […]

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  14. […] Oilman’s original recap of FindLaw selling links […]

  15. […] blogger at Oilman.ca revealed evidence that FindLaw had apparently violated the link-selling guidelines. An e-mail said […]

  16. […] by selling links on Findlaw’s websites. Read the original blog (Shame, Shame, Shame, Findlaw) here and scan down and check out the […]

  17. Trackback from Code4Gold Forums…

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