Caught Stealing… Why Your Local Spam is THEFT and Not “Marketing”

A month or so ago, I gave an amazing webinar with Local Search nerd and founder of Sterling Sky, Joy Hawkins  Frankly, the webinar was awesome because of the subject matter and Joy… this is no humblebrag.  Joy and I spent the better part of an hour talking about Local spam…. the underhanded dirty practice of faking office locations as a marketing tactic to artificially expand a law firm’s geographic reach.

Escape FindLaw Contracts

During the webinar I made the comment, that this practice is not a marketing tactic, but instead theft… that law firms are stealing business from other lawyers with fake locations. One of the webinar attendees commented, “thank you, thank you, thank you for finally calling this out for what it is.”

So here goes again:  Those of you engaged in local spam are stealing, not marketing. And those agencies helping you do so should be shunned.  

If there’s any question note this:  according to a Google study, 43% of prospects select their law firm based on the proximity of the lawyer – so lawyers faking locations are screwing not only their competitors, but their clients as well.

I’ve seen the devastating impact on the bottom line of many firms who suffer from competitors virtually elbowing their way into a market.  In any given month, 10% of our clients’ marketing investment is targeted towards combating those fake listings.

To date we’ve been quiet and private about those firms and agencies marketing with Local Spam caught stealing from our clients.  That stops today.  More to come….


Google moving (some) organic results above the map?

This is the second time I’ve seen this and thought it noteworthy.  For a long time now, we’ve had ads, then Local, then organic (sadly banished to the bottom) of SERPs.  This has heavily driven a push towards local (and the proliferation of spam in local, but I digress) and my personal love, organic SEO has suffered.  Interestingly, we’re now occasionally seeing a smattering of organic showing above the map.  Below is a query for divorce lawyer – note the Avvo listing sitting squarely between the ads and the Snack Pack.

I checked in with local search nerd, Joy Hawkins who said she’s seen it occasionally as well, but didn’t have a good understand of what or why they were triggering. My personal (and thin, anecdotal, unverified and otherwise speculative) perspective is that Google is pushing more subjective “quality” elements into search results.  Note Avvo – which ranks lawyers by quality of their background includes the word “Best” in their title tag.  We’ve also seen quality elements coming up law firms being displaying in Featured Snippets – I wrote about this for Law Technology Today a few weeks ago: Significant Changes to the Search Engine Results Pages.

Or perhaps its just another test that will come and go…..

Get The Most From Your AdWords Search Terms: 2 [Simple] Tips

The number one reason I love Google AdWords (aside from us now being a Premier Partner) is that their advertising platform enables you to target potential clients who are actively searching for your service. Not only do they place your ad in front of users who are searching for your service, but you can actually see what they searched for before clicking your advertisement. This transparency gives you an immense amount of power. In this post I’ll describe how to use that search data to quickly and easily perform 2 key tasks:

  1. Identify negative keywords
  2. Content idea generation

How to Access Your Search Terms Data

Let’s take a step back. The first thing you need to do is navigate to your “Search Terms” tab in your Google AdWords dashboard. Follow these steps…

  1. Login to Google AdWords
  2. Navigate to the specific campaign you want to work on
  3. Select the “keywords” tab and then select “search terms” in the second menu so you see a screen similar to this:

AdWords Search Terms

Now that you can see how people are finding and clicking on your ads, you’re ready to use that data. Take a minute to scroll through your search terms; if it’s your first time, you may be surprised at what you find.

Identifying and Adding New Negative Keywords

Now that you’re looking at the list of search terms you’ve paid for – you’ll want to identify anything that is irrelevant or not likely to lead to conversions. It’s good to go through at least every few weeks (more frequently if you are running a large budget campaign) and make sure you are excluding terms you don’t want to pay for in the future.

Here are some real client examples from an immigration attorney…

  • is rihanna getting deported” (I don’t think this person is looking to hire a deportation defense attorney for Rihanna.)
  • immigration paralegal openings in clearwater utah” (Unfortunately the law firm isn’t located in Utah and not looking to hire new paralegals.)
  • how many immigrants has trump deported” (Albeit an interesting question… this client doesn’t have the answer, and more importantly, this person is not looking to hire an attorney.)

If you find terms like this that you want to exclude from triggering your ads, simply select the checkbox next to the search term and then scroll to the top navigation and click the “add as a negative keyword” button.

It’s important to mention that as a best practice, you should upload a list of negative keywords before ever launching your AdWords campaigns. This way you are proactively mitigating the irrelevant and unprofitable keywords. Here are some freebies we include on most of our campaigns (dependent on practice area of course):

  • Cheap
  • Pro bono
  • News
  • Job
  • School
  • Statistics

Using Search Terms Data for Content Idea Generation

The queries you find in your search terms data can be utilized as a tool for organic search strategy as well. This list of terms is often a goldmine for generating new content ideas. You can see what people are interested in and actively searching for and make sure you have content on your site that answers those questions. Once more, if you already have relevant content, you can use the search terms report to get insight into how you can optimize the content on page to match the searchers verbiage.

For example, here are more examples from the same immigration attorney…

  • can I get a green card by marrying a permanent resident?
  • which green card is safe from deportation?
  • what are the newest immigration laws?

All of these questions can and should be used as a springboard for new content. If you can become the trusted resource for information about your practice area than you are winning.

Wrapping Up

Make sure you are not neglecting the search terms report in Google AdWords. Not only will it help you cut costs and focus on the relevant queries that drive business, but it can also help support your content and overall SEO strategy.

What Google’s New Deal Means for Anti-Piracy Attorneys

As readers search for information on the web, counterfeit sites attempt to redirect their results. In a new deal with the UK, Google says ‘not today’.

Described by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) as a “landmark agreement”, the deal serves to reduce the visibility of infringing content by June 2017. This will result in many pirated sites disappearing from the first page of search results for Google and Bing when people look for content.

Initially there was question whether the deal between IPO and Google would involve any algorithm changes. In a conversation with, Google confirmed no algorithm changes are necessary. Google is confident that their current algorithms (namely their “Pirate” algorithm) will continue working to prevent bad content from showing up in search results.

Google voiced that their main goal is to provide high-quality content to readers that is relevant to their needs. It is important for readers to be referred to legitimate and helpful websites. The existing algorithm serves to prevent pirated content and spam from interfering with that process.

Although Google seemed to downplay the significance of this agreement, the deal is monumental for the British Phonography Industry (BPI). To them, it was a much-needed move to reduce the visibility of pirated content and reduce copyright theft.

Without major algorithm changes, this means that websites that serve the needs of their customers and readers will not be negatively impacted. Instead, we will see a reduction in sites that may redirect their readers to pirated content and spam sites.

In the US there has been additional pressure to reduce the visibility of pirated content. Google and Bing aim to provide the best information for readers, as well as ensure that content creators see their valuable content appear in the results.

Civil and white-collar anti-counterfeiting attorneys can work alongside Google’s attempts at getting pirated content off the web. Anti-piracy law is invaluable when it comes to securing the sanctity of original content, sources, and businesses. We encourage attorneys to focus on what your clients care about and help protect their original and unique content online.

Google’s Video on How to Hire an SEO Consultant [or Agency]

If you’re considering an investment with an SEO Consultant or SEO Agency, please watch this 11.5-minute video released by Google. Maile Ohye, Google’s Developer Programs Tech Lead, outlines important things to consider, tips on what to ask for, and even items to expect from technical audits.

A good SEO will try to prioritize what ideas can bring your business the most improvement for the least investment, and what improvements may take more time but help growth in the long term. – Maile Ohye

SEO Summary:

  • If you want long-term success, there are no silver bullets to get your site to rank #1
  • SEO takes time to implement and see benefits
  • A good SEO agency will recommend best practices for a search friendly site, and back it up with documentation directly from Google
  • Putting more keywords in the meta-keywords tag and buying links don’t work to improve SEO

Hiring process summary:

  1. Interview your potential SEO consultant or agency and make sure they are genuinely interested in you and your business
  2. Check references
  3. Ask (and likely pay) for a technical search audit
  4. Decide if you want to hire


The Correlation Between Traffic & Leads

You might want to stop reading this right now because the conclusion of this post is (at least to me) forehead-smackingly self evident:

More law firm website traffic generates more law firm business.

I frankly wouldn’t even bother to write this post; other than a testy exchange last month between myself and LexBlog founder, Kevin O’Keefe debating if lawyers should focus on traffic when evaluating the efficacy of their marketing efforts.  In his post entitled Law Firm Publishers Screwing Up by Chasing Traffic, Kevin writes:

When publishing, you don’t have to follow all the other law firms off the traffic cliff.

I wouldn’t look at traffic and scaling up as measures of success.

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I couldn’t disagree more – especially for firms interested in generating business. Ever since I ran marketing at Avvo – I’ve used traffic as a measure of success – and that holds true with my law firm clients today.  Last year, the study we conducted for the ABA showed a very high correlation between increased traffic and increased inquiries to law firms.

So now we have a great visual demonstrating the point.  One of my Account Executives shared the graph below on our internal #humblebrag Slack channel.  And the reason I love this graph is that we’ve had a drastic increase in traffic and a corresponding exceptional increase in inbound inquiries. The lines essentially move together. Note that the graph for this specific client doesn’t look at just phone calls (as our ABA study did), but also includes both form fills and chat.

So, if you’ve ever wondered if you should consider traffic an important goal in evaluating the efficacy of your marketing efforts? This picture is worth a thousand words (or prospects):

So should you follow those other law firms off the traffic cliff?  Only if you don’t want them earning the business that used to be yours.

How to Find (And Fix) Orphan Pages

What is an Orphan Page?

An orphan page is a page on a website that is not linked to by any other page on the site. Think of the internet like a perfectly built spider web, each strand connected to another. Now imagine, a couple feet away from the web, a strand of silk hanging mid-air, all by itself. It’s still a piece of web, and would be helpful to a spider if the spider could reach it, but this spider can’t jump, and the strand of silk is useless. This strand of silk is an orphan page.

Orphan pages are rarely stumbled upon by users. This is because a user would have to access the page directly (via URL search) or via sitemap, which doesn’t tend to happen.

Some orphan pages are orphaned intentionally. These are private pages used by webmasters that aren’t intended for users to stumble upon. But we won’t worry about these pages in this post.

Why Should I Care?

At Mockingbird, checking for orphan pages is part of our technical audit. It’s one of the many indicators we use at the very beginning of an engagement to asses a client’s website health. Lots of orphan pages = website health could be improved. Why is this the case?

  1. You might have valuable pages orphaned. Sometimes this happens accidentally. This could mean that you have great content on your site, but, as it isn’t linked to, a user will never find it naturally. This is bad for the user, but not only this, you’re missing out on the potential online credibility coming from your valuable content. People don’t link to pages that they can’t find. Search engines wont have the opportunity to recognize you as an online authority on any subject if your best pages aren’t getting seen, linked to externally, or talked about.
  2. Orphan pages might bring penalties. This is a debated point among SEOs. Some speculate that, upon discovering orphan pages on a site, search engines will treat these pages as doorway pages (unnatural pages intended to rank artificially high for certain search terms to bring in users), and penalize the site. Most disagree, but in this case it’s worthwhile to error on the side of caution.

How Do I Identify Orphan Pages?

There are plenty of ways to identify orphan pages on your site, but no matter how you get the it, all you need is:

  1. A complete list of every page on your site
  2. A complete list of every crawlable page on your site.

For (1.) I use the xml sitemap*. If this sitemap is working correctly, it should be updating automatically each time a page is added to your site, regardless of whether or not it’s orphaned.

For (2.) I use Screaming Frog. Screaming Frog crawls the site as a Googlebot/Bingbot would. This means it starts at the homepage and works down, exploring each link it encounters on its way. Because Screaming Frog works in this way, it excludes pages that are not linked to on any other page. You called it, orphan pages.

Now that you have both a list of every page on your site, and a list of every crawlable page on your site, it’s time to compare. Bring both lists into an excel spreadsheet and run a duplicate check. All pages that don’t appear in your spreadsheet twice (these should be the pages that appear in your sitemap, but not Screaming Frog) are orphan pages.

What Do I Do Once I find Them?

This is the easy part. If you’ve found unintentionally orphaned pages on your site, assess their value. If an orphaned page has thin content, duplicate content, or is outdated, you’re better off without it. Noindex these pages. For valuable, relevant orphaned pages that you find, link to them from a natural page. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and imagine where your orphaned page would be the most helpful. If you discover an orphan page on your auto website called “Everything You Need to Know About Pistons”, your “Engine Parts” page would be a great candidate as a page to link from.


*In order to access this, just tack “/sitemap_index.xml/” on to the end of your homepage URL.



What Marketers Say (and what they really mean)

I’m Google Specialist, Bill Smith….

I don’t work for Google.

I’m calling from Yelp.

I hope math scares you.

I was just disconnected from [insert attorney name], can you please transfer me to her.

Its 4:00 pm on a Friday, I’m cold calling and hoping I can get past the gatekeeper so I can fulfill this week’s “live fish” quota.

Are you familiar with Yahoo’s Gemini ad product that competes with Adwords?

Marissa – seriously you leave me to pick up the pieces of this stinking pile of garbage?

You need another website/blog

I sell websites or blogs.

You need more content to capture the long tail.

I don’t know why your site isn’t generating business, but I’m going to shift the blame to you.

We specialize in geofencing.

I hope you are easily impressed with jargon and shiny objects.

Join me on meerkat

I hope you are easily impressed with jargon and shiny objects.

We are content marketing specialists.

We will add plug-ins to your site to automagically repost the content to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

We are Google Partners.

We sell Adwords.

I guarantee number one rankings.

I’ll burn your site within two months and then move on to the next sucker.

Would you like to guest post on our law firm’s blog?

I’m the in-house SEO person (well I’m a receptionist 95% of the time, but was told to handle some of this internet stuff in between calls).


Google’s Disavow Tool: How To

You run a website. Perhaps you hired a bad SEO in the past, or you yourself have done some questionable link-building at some point or another. You fear you might get hit (or already have been hit) by Google’s Penguin algorithm.

Don’t fear. Google’s Disavow Tool is here, and I’m here to tell you how to use it. In this post you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to use this tool and some background on why you should (or shouldn’t) be disavowing.

Before We Get Started, Some Notes

First, for those that don’t know, Google’s Disavow Tool is basically a way for you to tell Google “I don’t know that guy”, prompting Google to ignore certain links pointing to your site that it finds when crawling, and (ideally) not hit you with a penalty.

Second, it’s important to understand the gravity of what you’re doing before you start disavowing links left and right. The links coming to your website are an important signal (check out Pagerank) of how useful your site might be to users. If you have high quality links from credible websites, you REALLY DON’T WANT TO DISAVOW THESE LINKS. The only links you should be disavowing are those that are potentially harmful to be associated with online. That being said, you can always make adjustments to your disavow file. A link can be un-disavowed, although this will not happen immediately.

Third, nobody (besides Google) really knows the exact implications of submitting a disavow file. Some people say it doesn’t do anything, some swear by it.

Fourth, after you upload your disavow file, keep it. You’ll want to add to it (as opposed to replacing it) as more questionable links show up down the road.

Fifth, a link can be both potentially harmful AND helping you in rankings. It’s a fine line. Some links Google might not have identified as dubious, but they will, and when they do, you get hit with a penalty. It’s smart to preemptively disavow links you know to be potentially harmful now, and get busy building links to replace these with credible sites.

That being said, let’s get started, shall we?

Step 1. Identify Offending Links.

This is the hardest part. For more on this, check out my other blog post. To summarize, your goal is to identify the links that Google will perceive as dubious. What links does Google perceive as dubious? Those that are trying to trick it. If a link doesn’t exist to serve a purpose for the user, that’s a bad start. If a link exists because there was money or links exchanged to get it, now we’re in trouble. Google provides a set of guidelines to make this process of choosing links to disavow easier.

Run through and compile these dubious links into an excel spreadsheet.

Step 2. Contact Webmaster

Google recommends reaching out to each site you no longer want linked to you and personally requesting that they remove the link in question. You can do this by visiting the site and looking for an email address or filling out a comment box.

As you can imagine, this can be a tedious process. Send out your requests, then wait a week. Keep notes of which sites you contact, and which sites respond/remove links. Remove the links that webmasters have taken down from your spreadsheet. For the (many) links that remain, it’s time to disavow.

Step 3. Creating a Disavow File

This file should have one item per line, and follow these two rules:

1. Your disavow file must be a .txt file (At mockingbird we like to use Sublime Text, which automatically saves as a .txt file. This makes adding notes later on easier, and it’s free).
2. Your disavow file must be encoded in UTF-8 or 7-bit ASCII

To follow each of these rules, I copy and paste my links for disavow from excel into Sublime Text. You can, however, just save your excel spreadsheet as a .txt file.

It’s important to note that that you can either disavow one link, or all links from a domain at once. If you want to disavow just a link, include it in your disavow file in the following form:

In order to disavow an entire domain, include the domain in your disavow list like this:


We’re almost done! Before you submit, Google recommends that you annotate the domains and links that we send in for disavow. They give the following example:

These notes (following the “#”) are purely for personal use. They’ll come in handy when you’re adding to this list later.

Step 4: Submitting Disavow File

  • Follow this link
  • Make sure you are logged into the correct Google Search Console Account.
  • (if you have multiple) Select the website you wish to disavow links to.
  • Click “Disavow Links”

  • Choose your .txt file.

Bingo. You’ve submitted your disavow file. Give Google some time to recrawl your site, generally a number of weeks.