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….


Optimizing Images for Search: The Basics

Images are important. They can improve SEO as well as break up text and help make your website or blog post aesthetically pleasing. However, large uncompressed images can slow your page speed and impact your ranking factor. With the majority of people using their mobile devices for web browsing rather than desktop pc’s or laptops, making sure that your images are optimized is vital. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to becoming an image optimizing machine.

Finding The Right Image

Whether it is the header image for your website, a featured image for your blog post or a product image for your web store, make sure that you are using an image that reflects what you are trying to accomplish. There are many great resources that provide free stock images however it is best if you can supply your own images or have professional images taken. Original images will always be better than stock images, but if you do not have the resources to take your own photos, free stock images will work as long as they are high-quality and not too tacky. A couple website that I frequent are:

There are plenty of other stock image sites, however make sure that you can legally use them and whether or not you need to provide attribution.

Choosing The Correct File Format

Whether you are using Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or any of the other photo editing programs available, you will need to figure out which filetype will be the best for your image. This could be confusing considering how many file options are available. In this post I will be going over two popular file formats, JPEG and PNG.

  • JPEG: This is one of the most common image file types on the internet. JPEGs do not support transparency within images like PNGs do. JPEGs keep file sizes small and is pretty much supported universally.
  • PNG: Unlike JPEG, PNGs support transparency and possess a better color range. On the downside, file sizes are larger than a JPEG.

Unless you need transparency, JPEG should be your first choice when deciding file format.

Correctly Naming Your Image

Using a proper file name for you image is important because you want Google and other search engines to know what the image is about. For example, let’s say that you took a photo of a sunset at the beach in Hawaii using your own digital camera. When you upload that photo to your computer, you might have seen something like DSC1234.jpg as the file name. When looking at the image, you can instantly tell that it’s a picture of a sunset at the beach. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for Google. Instead you want Google to see that the image is sunset-hawaii-beach.jpg.

Optimizing Your Image For Web

When posting an image on the web, your main goal is to decrease the file size as much as possible without losing too much quality. With websites like and this process is incredibly simple. Simply upload your image to the site and it will do everything for you. After the image has been compressed, you can make further changes to the image when you hover over the image and click on “settings” (shown below).

Once you’re happy with the changes you have made, simply download the image and you are ready to go!

If you have access to Photoshop and want an in-depth “hands-on” approach, you can read about compression and how to compress images in Photoshop here.

What Alt Text Is and Why You Need It

Alt text is the text that search engines use to understand what the image is. When we look at a picture of a sunset at a beach, we understand what is going on in the picture. At this time, search engines cannot recognize images unless you include alt text. If you are uploading your image to WordPress, all you need to do is update the alt text option within the edit image options. Another way to include alt text is simply through html. For example:

<img src=”sunset-hawaii-beach.jpg” alt=”Sunset Hawaii Beach” />


It’s that simple. By following the steps previously outlined, you will have images that look great and load quickly.


Don’t Optimize for “Child Pornography” or: Why Titles Matter

A few weeks ago we were talking to an attorney that’s made a priority to produce an abundance of highly informative video content. However, during that discussion he asked us to look at his YouTube channel to see if there were any opportunities he may have missed when uploading and marketing his videos.

Here’s the first one I saw:

Definitely Not Child Pornography
Well…now we’ve got something to talk about…

One of the things he’d specifically asked about was whether we had any input on what he should be titling his videos.

The main point of optimizing your titles is to make sure expectations are clearly defined and your article or video aligns with the search intent of your potential audience. That’s why super generic titles are usually a bad idea in the first place.

However, for something as immediately off-putting as child pornography, it’s even more important to make it 100% clear what your video is about and why it’s not actually offensive content.

A better title would be, “Criminal Charges for Possession of Child Pornography” or anything else that clearly captures what the video is going to be about and increases the likelihood it will be found by someone worried about this scenario.

Granted, this is an extreme example of when generic titles go bad, but it illustrates the importance of fine-tuning titles for any content you intend to publish.

Not only is this a scary example of YouTube search traffic you don’t want to capture, it’s also likely this video’s nonspecific title will prevent it from appearing for searches where it would be totally relevant.

In short, if you’re going to take the time to publish content online it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to think through what it’s about and title it appropriately for its desired audience. That goes triple when you’re dealing with child pornography.

Hat tip to Christopher Morales for letting us use this example.

Counterpoint Guest Post: Social Media Done Well…..

Last week I wrote (another) anti-social media piece – Cute Kittens do NOT Generate Lawyer Business and received a disagreeing comment from Howard Iken.  Howard’s comment included the following quip: “social media is icing on an already well-done cake.  But just like icing, the social media marketing should be a small part of the meal.”  Love it.  Couldn’t agree more.  So I invited Howard to post an intelligent longer counterpoint to my overriding antipathy towards social media marketing amongst the legal field….

Conrad – I love your blog and normally agree with your opinions. But I felt obligated to weigh in here because I firmly disagree. I think there is a place for social media in any healthy campaign. But first, here is where I agree with you – the vast majority of legal social media effort is a complete and total waste of time and money. If you do not do it with purpose and knowledge you might as well stop right now.

I think the problems we attorneys face are the following:

  1. Consultants are always taking advantage of us. That is a nice way of saying we are being constantly scammed! And consultants love touting social media.
  2. Social media sounds sexy, and cutting edge. Just saying that phrase is awfully hard to resist.
  3. Everyone successful is doing it!   As least that is what you are told.
  4. 79% of online-Americans use Facebook.   A huge untapped audience is waiting!

Pew Research –

Here is where I disagree with you. My two cents: natural SEO is king but should always be accompanied by an appropriate amount of social media efforts. You should also include a certain amount of pay per click. If online marketing were reduced to a delicious slice of cake, the most satisfying slice would look something like this:


* Social media should be the icing on the cake. Never in huge amounts, and never the bulk of your effort. The overwhelming bulk of your effort should be in natural search.

Here is the part where I agree with you. If your efforts at social media completely and totally stink you should immediately hang it up and concentrate on more productive directions.

Signs your social media efforts stink:

  • You write the usual legal drivel and expect the placement of FB like buttons to encourage people to share your drivel. Your drivel is boring to read and is even more boring to share.
  • Your FB, Twitter, or LinkedIn posts consist of random article sharing from the internet. Why expect anything good from driving people to sites other than yours?
  • Your posts consist of funny, cool, or snarky comments that will be forgotten about 9 seconds after someone reads them. Sure – all you need is a second of someone’s attention to get a Like.   That like will get you another 8 seconds of continued attention before fading into oblivion.
  • Your posts consist of quick headlines or reposts that lead your readers to pages and pages of legal drivel. Similar to my first point. I consider myself a decent writer but I rarely enjoy reading my own articles !
  • The most-stinky social media posts of all – an endless series of posts and tweets announcing to your non-existent audience that you are an attorney and open for business.

Proper uses of social media (in my own humble opinion)

  • Drive people to your website
  • Drive people to your website (did I mention that twice?)
  • Lure people in to the best-damned writing and subject matter you can conceive of. People do not seek out legal drivel but you can offer them compelling stories.
  • Specifically target demographics that are more likely to click through and more likely to share your content with potential clients. Yes – this can be done effectively.
  • Give your SEO cake a nice, elegant icing that looks interesting to potential clients. Looking cool is not the end goal but it is always great if you look cool to the clients you are already targeting.
  • Notice I call social media the icing on the cake. It should never be too thick. It should never overwhelm the actual cake.
  • Throw in PPC (pay per click) decorations on your cake. That is whole separate subject. But it is a subject that also applies to social media.

Conrad – I have watched you conspicuously call out a lot of people selling SEO snake oil. I love seeing someone like you call BS when you see it. You have great opinions and impressive SEO chops. But I have to call it like I see it. You are wrong on this one. Social media does have its place in the search marketing arsenal. Properly done social media is always a help to the overall online effort.

Howard Iken, Esq. Managing Partner, Ayo and Iken, Florida.


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…..

Picking a Winning Title Tag: No Easy Way Out

As we know, title tags are a key element of on-page SEO (Ahrefs has a comprehensive analysis of just how important they are). And as Ahrefs determined, the use of exact match keywords in title tags has the second strongest correlation to higher rankings, right after the domain name:

So, What Should My Title Tags be?

To answer this question, some SEOs end up relying on PPC ads to see test keywords. They do this by plugging a potential title tag into a PPC ad, and based on the success (or failure) of that ad, decide whether or not to apply their trial title tag to a page on their site.

According to a recent study done by the Wayfair SEO team, this tactic is dangerous.

In this test, paid ads did not consistently predict winning organic titles:

“In our testing, paid ads did not consistently identify winning organic title tags. While trying to improve your title tags is definitely a very smart SEO play, relying on PPC might end up steering you wrong. PPC was able to identify some winners, but also mislabeled losers as winners, particularly when it came to promotional language.”

The Wayfair SEO team believes the reasoning for this to be that the success of a paid ad is different in nature to the success of an organic page in a key way: those clicking on PPC ads are not a random sample of people, they are the type of searchers who click on ads. These people tend to respond positively (by clicking) to promotional language (“sale”, “50% off”, “free shipping”). When the rest of us (those that don’t click on ads) see the words “50% off” in an organic search result, we think we’re being scammed, and keep scrolling.


If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to find optimal title tags, it looks like you have to keep looking beyond the success of PPC ads. Unfortunately, finding the perfect title tags may take a lot of time and data.

SEO Disaster: “This Site May Be Hacked”

Oh….. its so bad when a site gets hacked.  Check out what people looking on Google for attorney Steve Boyd see:

Note that under the listing for the website there’s a Google warning:  “This site may be hacked.” This is Google’s attempt to protect users from sites that may unwittingly download malware or aren’t what they really purport to be.  WordPress is a notoriously common target for hacks due to its ubiquity.  Here’s a close up of that Google warning:

Further – it’s highly unlikely that Google will send anyone to any other pages on the site…. most likely, the only results you will get are for that flagrant brand queries.  And this is because the site has over 12,000 indexed pages, mostly in Japanese, peddling everything from Nike sneakers to Patagonia jackets.

But wait – there’s more! Go back to that original result and let your eyes land on the pictures to the right in the Knowledge Graph….. looks like not only Steve’s site was hacked, but someone also took the time to upload some new pictures for his office.  Either that, or Steve really likes galavanting in one-size-too-small football pants after taking a dip in the ocean and completing his morning’s 1,000th sit-up.

What to Do?

First off – don’t let this scare you away from WordPress – it is still the one and only website platform you should use.  But…

  1. Update it regularly.
  2. Host it on a Managed WordPress provider.  We recommend WPEngine – read more: Our Love Affair with WPEngine.
  3. Check results for brand searches regularly.
  4. Claim your Google My Business result.
  5. Monitor your site in Google Search Console.

And Steve – if you are reading this…. my apologies (or admiration if that is really you).

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.