Richard Jacobs & Speakeasy Marketing – SPAMMY Legal Internet Marketer

I just got an email from a client asking for direction on a link building opportunity.  This from my client:

Conrad, we just got this message regarding link building. As we clearly know nothing about this I defer to your expertise.


And here’s the request, from Andrew Hudson of Speakeasy Marketing  – submitted completely cold to an online form on my client’s website.  I’ve boldfaced the most egregious parts:

From Our Law Firm to Yours – a Request


I work for 40 different attorneys throughout The United States, and I have a simple proposition that will benefit your website and ours.

One of my attorney clients would like to Place a link from his website to your website, Which will elevate you in Google’s eyes and help You get higher up in Google results.

In return, we ask for a link from your website to A different attorney client of ours.

No money exchanges hands, the links are not Reciprocal, and both parties benefit.

This is NOT a ‘black hat’ technique, or anything That violates Googles’ terms of service.

100% straight up, legitimate, tit for tat.

Are you open to this simple arrangement?

Please reply regardless,

Andrew Hudson
73-03 Bell Blvd #10
Oakland Gardens, NY 11364
Phone# 347-329-5146

Now, if you know anything about online marketing, you’ll know that this is entirely black hat, is entirely reciprocal (I’m not sure how Andrews misses the irony of saying “its not reciprocal”, and then mentions “tit for tat”) and entirely violative of Google’s terms of service.

Richard – when you read this, check out Google’s Guidelines on Link Schemes – although you might find this excerpt particularly insightful:

Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.

I checked out the site for Speakeasy Marketing and found the worst type of internet schyster – the black hat acolyte professing white hat tactics and guaranteeing magical results.  AND they specialize in legal – which I find infuriating.

 Speakeasy Marketing – Avoid at Your Peril

Let’s look at their site as a lesson in identifying red flags of SEO spammers:

Speakeasy Lawyer Marketing

Focus on Rankings

I’ve written ad nauseaum about  the dangers of ranking reports and how SEO’s use them to suggest success in the face of failure.

Guarantee Page 1

100% Success Guarantee

Nothing is guaranteed in online marketing.  Ever.  Nothing.

Guarantee - Speakeasy Marketing  No Effort Required

I’ve been doing this a long time – and the only thing I know for sure is that successful online marketing takes effort.

Speakeasy Content Automation

Disavowing Black Hat Techniques

Of course – the cruel irony here is that he’s calling out black-hat techniques while simultaneously employing them.


Speakeasy Lawyer Marketing SPAM

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.   

Legal Marketing in 2014: The Only Thing You Need to Know

Now is the time of year when professional predictions, resolutions and prognostications appear across the legal marketing blogging landscape.  In the ever-changing SEO industry, correctly guessing the newest new thing is very effective.

As far as I’m concerned there’s only one thing you need to know about online marketing in 2014:  Matt is mad.

In 2013, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team (and unofficially, chief industry PR spokesperson), Matt Cutts, hammered the SEO industry with anit-spam algorithm updates.  And while Google started sharing these algo code name updates back in 2011; through 2013 we saw these names go from project code names whispered about at geek conferences into brand names, with careful, proactive PR launches.  Pandas and Penguins and Hummingbirds.  Oh My!

Traditionally, Google’s anti-spam PR approach has been to single out individuals – JC Penney’s, BMW etc. – and make an example of them.  And while there will continue to be individual examples, what we are now seeing is much more widespread.  This accelerated towards the end of the year with widespread algo changes and very public warnings about guest blogging, thin authorship and a litany of link scheme busts.  Here are some (non-animal branded) announcements from December 2013 alone:

Google Has Officially Penalized Rap Genius for Link Schemes

Matt Cuts Implies Google is Aware of SEOs Bribing Bloggers

Google Reduces Authorship Rich Snippets in Search Results

Google Squashes – Another Link Network Outed by Google

Google’s Matt Cutts: Guest Blogging Abuse SPAM on the Rise

Google Busts Yet Another Link Network – Anglo Rank

Google’s Matt Cutts: Stitching Content is Bad SEO Quality Content

Google Mindset Shift

Most interesting was a shift in mindset publicly espoused by Google. Generally, given their vast reach and power – we seen amicable Matt speaking reasonablly gently about these issues. So I was very surprised to run across Cutts in a December 4, This Week in Google video, in a carefully worded statement saying:

“We want to break [spammers] spirits.”

Barry Schwartz has a detailed review of the video on Search Engine Land – here are some of the key excerpts:

“If you want to stop spam, the most straight forward way to do it is to deny people money because they care about the money and that should be their end goal. But if you really want to stop spam, it is a little bit mean, but what you want to do, is sort of break their spirits.”

SPAM and the Legal World in 2013

Aggressive and enterprising lawyers tend to be some of the more aggressive spammers – rivaling offshore porn, pills and poker.  In 2013, the third largest legal industry centric link buying scheme was quietly taken down (interestingly – to the best of my knowledge this hasn’t been reported anywhere.)  I don’t know if that was a manual change made by Google or if it was caught up in a larger algo update.  And remember lawyers – I’m talking to more and more of you coming up with various office sharing schemes to try to artificially expand your footprint in Google local results.  If you want to stay around for a while, open up a real office.  David Mihm’s 2013 Local Optimization Ranking Factors Survey identified the number one negative ranking factor:  Listing Detected at False Business Location.

So – Atticus’ predictions for 2014?

As a whole, the legal industry will experience a heavy shake-up with regards to who generates business from the web.  “Penalty Recovery” will become a staple of the legal SEO agency world as law firms flee the large spammy, legally focused SEO agencies/consultants/website providers.


Avoid “1&1 My Website” for your law firm’s website

Generally, I encourage lawyers to use any cost effective means necessary to get a website up and running – but with 1 & 1 My Website, I’m wrong.

Here’s the backstory: I just received a cold call from 1&1 My Website to our new office number, which was surprising as I haven’t published it anywhere. Given the business I’m in, and the fact that I’ve had a few inquiries from lawyers about their service, I decided to play along and learn a little more. While I didn’t record the conversation, here is my best recreation of some of the conversation that ensued.

The initial call was from a woman who asked for the business owner and started telling me some alarming things about my website.

“When you look your business up online, you have no credibility.”
“I can’t imagine that is the case, I have a very solid reputation . . . ”
“Your business is not searchable through Google.”
“I’m looking your business up and its showing that you don’t have any credibility.”
“Well what are you looking it up with?”
“Your competitors are beating you online.”
“Which competitors?”
“Your competitors in Washington state.”
“But I don’t have any competitors in Washington state.”
“Your business doesn’t have any credibility.”

This went round and round for a few minutes until it became clear that a)she knew nothing and b)her primary objective was to get me on a shared screen via to go through a demo. (She also thought my name was Bob – which was amusing.) I played along and was introduced to a closer named Bill (I’ve changed his name for his own protection – you’ll see why later) whose first questions were:

“Do you already have a website?”
“What is your domain?”

Now presumably, the first lady was actually looking at my site when she was so concerned about my credibility, but in hindsight – we never actually talked about the actual domain at all. Now that we were sharing his screen, Bill proceeded to look up my site and show me the source code on the homepage.

“See . . . the site has no meta tags or keywords, so the only way people can find you is by your business name.”
“Well, that is very concerning.”

Now remember, he’s looking at my site, where the primary nav includes the words “Advanced SEO” – somehow this never registers. He then used an online tool to look up my phone number that returned a zero result.

Phone Lookup

“See here . . . I can tell by your phone number that you don’t have any website traffic.”
“But I thought I was doing well with search engines.”
“But you don’t have any meta tags or keywords.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“The way search engines work is that they look for keywords on your website and if they aren’t there, you won’t show up.”

We then moved to the solution part of the sale . . .

“You can keep your website and we’ll add all of the meta tags and keywords for you for free.”
“Well how many keywords can I get?”
“And what about those meta tags – I don’t really understand that.”
“It’s unlimited, we’ll put in whatever your business does so the search engines can find you.”

I thought I’d move to some more pointed questions:

“But I thought links were the primary thing that search engines used to drive rankings.”
“Oh you can put as many links on your site as you want – for free.”
“No I mean links from other websites.”
“We do that too.”
“Well how many links do I get?”
“How does that work?”
“We have a tool that creates them.”

“You said I can just copy my website to a new domain – Is that going to help with SEO?”
“Yup – and you also get up to 1,000 subdomains.”
“So if I just copy my website on those subdomains, would that help with SEO?”

At this point, I should note that this is neither of the two call reps fault. They are stuck in a call center (the background noise sounded like a frat party after a college football win). They have miserable jobs getting rejected by cranky small business owners on a regular basis. They have clearly been trained in the most effective script that closes the most businesses, instead of fundamental SEO concepts.

If you don’t understand why their answers above were so horrific – just take my word for it and stay away.

These sales tactics are unfortunately common in the website/SEO sales process – alarmist calls, unsubstantiated claims, technical jargon and automated, low cost solutions. Its why uninformed attorneys are taken advantage of on a regular basis when buying websites or SEO services. I wrote a quick self-evaluation a few months ago to answer the question: Are  You  Qualified to Hire an SEO?”

But it gets worse.

After we ended the call (I didn’t sign up btw – despite Bill’s mention of their Superbowl ad, which, for some reason he thought would get me to close) Bill kept his screen sharing opened to his call management software – Connect First. So I was able to investigate where 1&1 harvested my unpublished phone number from – apparently a contact generation company called CostalCom Closers.


CoastalCom Closers 2


I was also able to watch as Bill walked another lead – a contractor across the country – from the cold call script . . .


. . . all the way through the purchase process . . .

Untitiled 8

. . . to the entry of the company’s credit card number. (Let’s ignore for now, the ironic disclaimer, “1&1 is committed to keeping your payment details secure.”)

Payment Credit Card

If you are uninformed enough to fall for 1 & 1’s sales message know this: they give you just enough functionality to entirely screw up your online marketing efforts. The service was $14.95 a month – clearly you get what you pay for. Attorney websites for lawyers don’t need to be expensive, but they need to get traffic and make your phone ring. 1&1 is NOT the solution.

UPDATE: Through some backdoor channels I heard from Jeff, 1&1’s Director of Telesales.  While we only traded voicemails, I believe he was genuinely trying to get in touch with me.  From one of his VM’s: “assure you that this is not our typical business practice.” 

SEO Regicide: Content the King is Dead

Content content content.

“You need more content.”

 “You need to rewrite news articles every day!”

“You need to blog more.”

“Publish or perish.”

“Google launched Hummingbird – you need to write FAQs!”

Psssssst . . . . lawyers . . .  all of the SEO experts are telling you (and all of your competitors) the same thing.  And like compliant lemmings, you are all doing the same thing.

Psssssst . . .  It doesn’t work anymore.

The Rise and Fall of the Content Dynasty

The genesis for the focus on content began about 5 years ago.  Changes in consumer search behavior gradually took effect – whereby users began looking for increasingly specific answers with increasingly granular content pages.  The “long tail” of search became the industry’s hottest new buzzword.  SEO experts, ninjas, and mavens started churning out pages with very subtle differences –  “Best Seattle underage DUI Attorney”, “Top 10 Settle teen DUI Attorneys” “Great Seattle Drunk Driving Lawyers for drivers under 21” ad nauseam.  The industry adopted the boorish practice of rewriting news stories and vomiting them back onto blogs that quickly became poorly written rehasings of yesterday’s news.

And for a while it worked (at least in generating traffic for the SEO consultants to return triumphantly with “success metrics” for their misguided clients – the fact that the phone never rang didn’t seem to matter – but I digress, that is a topic for another post.)  The legal industry became publishing sweatshops – with individual firms churning out hundreds, even thousands of articles a month.

Eventually, the search engines, as they always do, caught up with the SEO spammers.  Penguins and Pandas and most recently, Hummingbirds were let lose on the algorithms.  Content, the King, was under attack.

Content is Dead

The Succession of the King:  Quality Content

The search engine talking heads defended their King – retreating back to the ever-popular refrain – “write quality content and we will reward you with a bounty of traffic.”

So the SEO experts and mavens and ninjas did as they were told . . . infographics and guest blogging were born. Top 10 Lists proliferated like bunnies on a steady diet of Viagra. In time, most legally focused news stories was dissected and built into beautiful graphical statistical displays.  Guest blog brokers were born.  Just like with King Content, the disciples of his son, Quality Content initially did very well.  But as others caught up, they became increasingly less effective. Because everyone was doing it.

So the search engines sent warnings about guest blogging.  The cycle repeated itself again.

Quality Content is NOT Enough

This death of King Content and his prince son, Quality hit me square in the face a few weeks ago at Webcam –  a small but amazing conference in Bend Oregon.  Marshall Simmonds, who used to be the in-house SEO for the New York Times  (arguably one of the most high quality original content publishers) heralded the end of a dynasty:  Content is no longer King.

Eu Tu Simmonds?

And he’s right. We are now at a point in the evolution of the web where generating quality content is no longer sufficient for success. There’s frankly just too much of it.  The trick, the real hard part of marketing, today’s unscaleable solution and the successor of the crown is marketing content.  And by “marketing content” – I don’t mean “content marketing” – the aforementioned practice of vomiting out hoards of webpages.  I literally mean undertaking marketing efforts to promote your quality content.  This can take the shape of many different channels – social media, networking, the dubiously named “author rank” or even the marketing pariah of the SEO world – Public Relations.  Marshall’s pronouncement was utterly confirmed for me when I looked at the referring traffic for some legal sites and found that Press Release providers (PRWeb etc.) frequently showed up as the #1 referring site. For years, I have mocked the press release tactic as a dying relic of yesteryear  – but I’ve been wrong – because now, the genuine distribution of content is what makes the magic happen.

The reality is that the Quality Content mantra assumed that when you have quality content, links are going to happen.  This is no longer universally true – especially in hypercroweded content landscapes like legal.  To be successful, you must embrace proactively marketing that very good, high quality content.

Content is dead, long live Content.

Yelp Sues Law Firm, McMillan Group, for Bogus Reviews

Not long ago I wrote a Search Engine Land post about a law firm suing their SEO for bad results . . . today bring us Yelp going after a law firm for posting fake reviews.  Having run marketing Avvo for about 5 years, I’ve seen all sorts of fake reviews (Avvo had, and I assume still has) a very strong algorithmic and human review spam process.  Yelp clearly has dealt with bogus reviews in the past without reaching for their lawyers.  I thought I’d dig in to see why they changed course this time . . .

Yelp goes after McMillan Group

San Diego based, McMillan Group  previously won a small claims suit against Yelp for a whopping total of $2,700.  The charge?  That  Yelp required an advertising contract in order for positive reviews to show up prominently on the company’s Yelp page.  Yelp is now coming back after the McMillan Group – citing a massive astroturfing (self-authored flattering reviews) campaign.  Essentially, Yelp claims the firm’s employees created new Yelp accounts for the sole purpose of writing one-off gushing 5 star reviews.  Many of the reviews track back to the same IP address, which coincidentally was also the firm’s IP address, (hmmmmm – not so smart McMillan Marketing staff).  In some  cases “unique” reviews were posted one after another and included exactly the same text.

Yelp has clearly dealt with bogus reviews in the past – there a few possible interpretations about why this review spat has been taken to this level:

  1. Yelp is bullying McMillan for the original lawsuit.
  2. Yelp is taking aggressive steps to protect the quality of their reviews.
  3. Yelp is seeking a PR counterpoint story to the “advertise with us or else. . . . ” news story that can’t seem to go away.
  4. The Yelp marketing department hates that McMillan has put the Yelp logo linking to a “Learn how we beat Yelp for their advertising practices” page on the homepage.

McMillan Homepage


Oh yes, and there’s Yelp again on a McMillan microsite (although it seems they haven’t been able to entirely figure out WordPress):



Interestingly, I saw nothing but glowing 5 stars from 23 people on Google (although there was only 1 review on Avvo).

McMillan Google


Have some time and want to dig into the legal ramifications?  Here’s the complaint.

If I had to guess, I’d say this is a marketing tit for tat gone legal. All of this begs a very interesting question . . . other than the negative publicity, does this matter?  Do people  turn to Yelp when hiring an attorney?

Update:  Backlink Review

What would the backlink profile look like for a firm willing to astroturf reviews?  I took a cursory review at McMillan’s backlink profile.  Consider this a cautionary tale about how NOT to engage in linkspam.  According to open site explorer there are a 3,000 links from a whopping 2,000 different domains pointing to McMillan’s site.  Of those, the vast majority are evenly spread across anchor text with some variation of “san diego” + “bankruptcy attorney”  . . . 240 links with “san diego bankruptcy lawyers”, 240 links with “san diego bankruptcy attorneys”,   278 with “san diego bankruptcy lawyer” etc.

Now lets look at some of those links.

Spammy link tactic #1

Building single page “websites” on free website domains.  I counted 13 subdomains with links for McMillan on Weebly.  There are more linking subdomains on .beep, .webnode and others.

Spammy link tactic #2

Low quality directory submissions.  Here’s one of my favorites – a German website Webkatalog Firmen Anzeigenmarkt with this description of McMillan:

“It is required to have a lawyer Unless you have the time, patients, and understanding of the law to do it yourself. Here is why you need a Bankruptcy Law Firm San Diego. Better-quality San Diego bankruptcy law firm will advise you full fiscal session Facilitate and you build up a plan whichwill Certainly get the creditors off your back once and for ave McMillan Law Group will therefore take attention for all the paperwork and legal procedures Which are Merely too much to manage on your own.”

Spammy link tactic #3

Comment spam on subject-matter irrelevant blogs that don’t have no-follow attributes on comments.  According to OSE, somewhere hidden among the 7,137 other comments on this page on  is a link to McMillan.

Spammy link tactic #4

For a localized business, a reasonable proportion of links should be local – very few should be international on foreign language sites.  This is a very obvious and easy red flag to ID.  For McMillan, I found links on sites in Spanish, Chinese, German and more.

The Lesson Here

This post might sound a little mean spirited, but consider it a great example to NOT emulate with regards to link acquisition.  The real reason:  despite all that keyword rich anchor text, a Google search for “san diego bankruptcy attorney” didn’t return McMillan until deep into page 2 and they were nowhere to be found in the local (mapped) results either.

The irony, of course, is with all of this Yelp publicity, McMillan is going to build a slew of genuinely high quality links; unfortunately they’ll all be going to a domain that is probably unsalvageable.