FindLaw Selling Pre-SEO’d Websites

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Want to rank #1 for a highly competitive search term immediately?  FindLaw has your answer.

FindLaw is now offering pre-built Websites – essentially high ranking law firm websites with no owner – being sold to the highest bidder.  And by “high ranking” I mean high ranking in the search engines.

Here’s excerpts from a FindLaw email forwarded to me by a lawyer wondering how much he should pony up for a site that was already a ranking winner:

look at this link and let me know what you think once you open the first organic (under top PPC adds). This is just a sample of our pre-built DUI Sites that we recently released. We only sell 2 state wide for every state. Why not consider being # 1 organically. . .”

What the what?

What is a pre SEO’d Website?

Now its unclear from the email above exactly what “pre-built” websites actually means – but the explicit message here is that a firm can purchase a website from FindLaw that already ranks.  And ranks #1 for very competitive terms. The sales pitch is very compelling – we already rank #1 . . . see right here?

And lawyers bit.  Here’s one of those pre-built, pre-SEO’d websites live and kicking and rented by attorney Erik Zentz.  Yes – just <insert handsome attorney picture here>.  DUI in Vegas – I wonder how deep Erik’s pockets are?

FindLaw-Pre-SEO-

And this approach seems to be working well for FindLaw and their clients.  Here’s Zentz winning the  competitive query “Las Vegas DUI Lawyer”.  (And I can’t tell you the rash it gives me that a FindLaw site is outranking Avvo’s results – which come in at #2.)

Las-vegas-DUI-search

I wanted to know exactly what a pre-built website was, so I checked out lasvegas-duilawyer.com on the wayback machine. Turns out, just last year there was an entirely different law firm on that domain:  Kajioka and Bloomfield.

Kajoika

So what happened to Kajioka and when?  Here’s the site on the wayback machine from January of this year – notice the firm name and contact information have been stripped.  I can’t possibly imagine a worse user experience for someone in desperate need of a lawyer stumbling across a placeholder website ranking #1 in a highly targeted search result.

calling-card

And now Eric Zentz owns rents the domain that Kajioka and Bloomfield presumably paid to have FindLaw build and optimize for them – including all of the legacy blog content and . . .  links.  Yup – despite the fact that Zentz started on the domain just this year, “his” blog posts stretch back well into the first quarter of last year and have the exact same content from the Kajioka era. Explains how he’s been able to rank #1 for a super competitive term in less than 3 months.  And not to miss a black hat beat, FindLaw made sure to establish authorship for Eric . . . for pre-existing blog posts written long before he was their client.  Note the date below . . .

Authorship-Spam

I’ll leave you lawyers and bar reps to chime in on the ethics of this.

So pre-built actually means “recycled” or “rented” or “sold to the highest bidder” or “author spam” or perhaps all of the above.

What absolutely floors me is that Koijaka and Bloomfield have kept their website with FindLaw – although they don’t appear anywhere in search results (at least for me) for that coveted term – “las vegas dui lawyer”.

I wonder who is paying more to the piper?

More Examples

Is Zentz an isolated incidence?  Not so fast – through a little backlink analysis I stumbled into a slew of sites – ChicagoLegalAuthority.com, NewYorkLegalAuthority.com etc, PhiladelphiaLegalAuthority.com etc. The whois record for these domains comes up not as FindLaw, but rather as DNStination Inc. in San Francisco, which is, according to Domain Name Strategy, “a profile often used by corporate registrar MarkMonitor to ‘mask’ domain ownership on behalf of their clients.” But the anchor text heavy links on these sites point almost exclusively to lawyer websites that are — you guessed it — FindLaw clients. Of the links on Chicago Legal Authority’s Featured Personal Injury Attorneys (below), seven out of nine of them were to law firms paying FindLaw for their websites – and look at that anchor text whoooo!

Chicago PI List

And – to close the loop – the New York Legal Authority site included an anchor text heavy link to LongIslandDwILawyer.org – which, although registered to Domains by Proxy (hidden), is built on the same exact template as our original example: Zentz.

FindLaw Prebuilt Website

 

Another ownerless site – the phone number I called on the contact page of these ownerless sites went to a nondescript voicemail – no name, no law firm name, nothing – how is that for quality results?  BUT – someone is still publishing content on the domain – at least 5 blog posts so far this month.

May Blog Posts

. . . . and yup, you guessed it . . . the Long Island DWI site returns on page one of Google search results for that money term . . . .”long island DWI Lawyer.”

image001

 

*sigh*

So if you live in Long Island and practice DWI, give your FindLaw rep a call . . .

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20 Responses to “FindLaw Selling Pre-SEO’d Websites”

  1. CaitlinMay 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Ha! Pre-SEO’d to what standards?

    This is my favorite part: “And not to miss a black hat beat, FindLaw made sure to establish authorship for Eric . . . for pre-existing blog posts written long before he was their client. ”

    Good one, FindLaw.

  2. Gerry OginskiMay 20, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    What a shocker. Thanks for a great analysis Conrad. Just remarkable.

  3. AlexMay 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Hmm…not to be a stick in the mud but this is a pretty brilliant idea on the part of FindLaw. Just imagine the overhead they must be saving?

    Reminds me of the days when everyone was registering domains to broker a resale (Such as amex.com and juliaroberts.com). This is all morally grey but as long as FindLaw returns good quarterly profits and is able to avoid any legal action over this, they’ve got a good niche. Apparently the rental market isn’t just for homes anymore.

    I wonder what the going rate is?

  4. KeithMay 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    I think it’s a great idea; I think they’ve been doing it for years. No ramp-up time, results before paying, etc.

    • Brint CrockettMay 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      Misrepresenting content as authored by an attorney who quite obviously had nothing to do with it, is very far from a “great idea.” Quite the contrary, it signals an absence of thought.

  5. FyodorMay 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    I know that talking bad about FindLaw gets you all riled up, but they don’t even scratch the surface as face as competitive SEO goes in the legal vertical. I’m talking about firms dominating big niches like “Houston personal injury lawyers” buying Russian links, a fake business is ranking A in the maps for San Diego Divorce Lawyer, and a firm we’ve all heard of that is showing well in Florida doesn’t take much precaution to hide the fact that 5/10 of their strongest links are “Sponsored”.

    And IMHO, I’m not the bar, but renting the #1 spot on Google is no more unethical than buying the back cover of Yellowpages.

    I’d love to talk more about this with you…. you’ve got my email.

  6. MikeMay 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Conrad,

    Nice article here. We’ve been noticing quite a few of these showing up in the SERPS the last few months, mainly for personal injury related sites but criminal as well. I noticed this site (also an ownerless DUI site) sandiego-duilawyer.com and as you can see it has a similar design. Most of the other ones I’ve noticed have near identical designs with just the text changed. Domain registration is hidden on every domain. If you analyze any of the backlink profiles of these sites, it’s pretty easy to tell most of the links are generated by a Findlaw link network. Add in some low quality press releases and even low quality directories (look at the first listing here: http://wldirectory.com/blogs/law/page-6.html) to keyword rich domains and you’ve got some sites ranking that shouldn’t be.

    It is a bit surprising that this is getting past Google’s algo but often times these kind of link networks are short-lived, especially post Penguin. I checked just now and I found that all three of these DUI sites (the two DWI sites in your article and this one I noticed in San Diego) are on the same IP address. A little further digging and I found over 100 of these keyword rich domains using the exact same IP address of 173.203.62.204. There should be a new version of Penguin coming soon and hopefully it catches this kind of stuff.

  7. AlexMay 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Most of these low quality sites have a custom WP plugin so you can search ““/wp-content/plugins/all-in-one-firmtarget/” and you will finds lots of these sites.

    What a joke. I guess when all of their big SEO clients got destroyed by the October Penguin update, you get desperate and need a new revenue source.

  8. JR OakesMay 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Conrad,

    It looks like those sites are either killed or no longer ranking. Take a look at:
    https://search.nerdydata.com/search/#!/searchTerm=all-in-one-firmtarget/searchPage=1/sort=pop to see the network. (nice find Alex).

    Take a look at the bottom of : http://lawbrain.com/wiki/Medical_marijuana

    Are you seeing the entire network demolished in serps? I tested 6-7 site including the ones above and can’t find one ranking in the top 30 results.

    JR

  9. alex MorrisMay 22, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Yes I am seeing the same thing- almost every one of these sites was crushed by Panda 4.0 and rightly so. Craig Brooksby did a great analysis of this on his blog http://www.redfalconweb.com/blog so you can compare ranking there as well.

  10. AdamMay 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I take issue with the website wrongly attributing content to the new renter but the rest of the website rental business is a smart strategy for FindLaw. At least it was until the google got to them.

  11. JimJuly 21, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Great job Conrad! You are always very thorough. While this is a brilliant marketing tactic for Findlaw, there is more slight of hand here then a Penn & Teller show on the strip. We manage top DUI sites and Findlaw is not using the highest volume search terms that actual consumers use. When using those search terms – this sight is nowhere! Now you know what Kajioka and Bloomfield knew already. Caveat emptor!

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