The Attorneys ATM – SPAMMY SEO Marketing

I was doing a backlink check on a law firm site today and ran into link SPAM at a level so rudimentary and flagrant that I was incredulous that it was still around. This SPAM is so basic, it might serve as a good lesson on how SEO’s manually diagnose toxic links . . . .

I found a a link to a DUI law firm’s site . . . on the domain  As the frim was neither in California nor in spinal injuries, this started to smell a little fishy – as did the Title Tag, which had nothing to do with California or Spinal Injuries:

DUI – DWI, Criminal, Personal Injury, Accident, Bankruptcy, Divorce, Workers Compensation (workers comp) Immigration Attorneys Lawyers

Hmmm – looks like a low end directory – linking out primarily to a small number of DUI lawyer websites. ATM CA Spine The Footer tells me this a directory from a company called The Attorneys ATM – who provides “law firm internet marketing” (nice anchor text), but apparently didn’t know how to remove the placeholder text for Example Website Article 1 and 2. ATM info

Let’s click through and discover more . . . Well, lookie here – some information on backlinks and how to rank in very high in the search engines: backlinks This isn’t going to blow you away, but the anchor text heavy links in the directory all pointed to clients of . . . .

wait for it . .  .

don’t tell me you guessed already . . .

The Attorneys ATM.   How do I know?  Because the footers say things like this:

Guaranteed Law Firm Internet Marketing by The Attorneys ATM

A little more sleuthing and I found another Lawyer Directory by our friends at The Attorneys ATM, and then another and another and another . . . I could go on:   The Lawyer ATM

Fake Backlinks and What This Means for “The Attorneys ATM” Clients

If you don’t understand the significance of what I’ve described above let me simplify:  Search Engines use links as an indicator of quality content and therefore rank sites with lots of links well.  Fake links (also called toxic links) like the ones above are used to artificially boost search engine rankings.  When the search engines discover these toxic links – they may chose to not only ignore them but actually demote the site – causing inbound traffic to crater and inbound phone calls from prospects to essentially disappear. Toxic links are the primary target of the search engine penalty called Penguin.  The example above is so egregious – a bunch of copied sites with instructions on the importance of backlinks all linking back to a single provider – that I’ll buy you a steak dinner if the clients of The Attorneys ATM haven’t seen a huge drop in traffic due to Penguin. Unfortunately, recovering from a Penguin penalty is expensive, uncertain and takes a very long time.

My industry has done a good job earning its place at the bottom of the ethical barrel. Unfortunately it is frequently our clients who suffer. Caveat Emptor.

FindLaw Websites Crushed by Panda 4

On Tuesday, I posted about Google’s roll-out of Panda 4 – an algorithm update targeting spammy, thin, duplicative content and postulated that this was going to really shake up the legal industry.  It turns out, that was an understatement. Early results are showing that this algo update has had the largest ever impact across the legal industry.

The algo changes start with my friends in Eagen, Minnesota at FindLaw (and unfortunately, probably many of their website clients). Decimated by Panda 4

I was curious to see what happened to FindLaw’s traffic after Panada 4 rolled out, as the legal SEO industry has been vocally critical of Google for seeming to turn a blind eye to FindLaw tactics that flagrantly flaunt search engine best practices.  To date, none of the algo updates or Penguin penalties seem to have had a massive or persistent impact on either the FindLaw site or their law firm clients’ websites.   The early data suggests that has changed drastically with Panda 4:

Findlaw Alexa

Check out the massive drop in the past few days – FindLaw plummeting to traffic levels lower than they’ve seen in many years. Why did this happen?  Attorney, Damon Chetson described it best (and foreshadowed this week’s impact of Panda) in a post from January:  FindLaw Getting Penalized for SEO Abuse.

“FindLaw was “good” at creating a lot of content, most of it junk, that it could repackage and sell across websites and markets.”

This type of pervasive, thin, low quality content across a network of sites is exactly what the Panda algo updated was designed to detect and push users away from.

What Happened to Avvo?

After I saw this massive hit FindLaw’s traffic, my next stop was to check out Avvo.  (Full disclosure – I’m still a shareholder in Avvo, so I’m hardly writing from a dis-interested perspective here.)  Turns out Avvo didn’t get hit.  At all.  The Alexa graph below shows business as usual for Avvo.

Alexa - Avvo

In fact, legal marketer Shelly Fagin is reporting on some impressive gains for Avvo.

I’m seeing Panda 4.0 bumped down lots of lawyers positions for Avvo which now has a top SERP in most all our major search terms.

And the data I’m tracking suggests Shelly is entirely accurate.  Below you’ll see a sampling of ranking data on 1,500 different highly competitive head terms (like “Seattle Divorce Lawyer”) and the changes in incidence in Top 3 ranking for both FindLaw and Avvo.  While FindLaw’s appearance in the top 3 results has dropped by 44%, Avvo exploded by 210% and they are now dominating FindLaw on these highly converting (i.e. prospects making phone calls to lawyers) terms.

FindLaw vs Avvo Rankings

These changes are a big deal for the legal industry as a whole.  In 2006, I was part of a small group of people trying to use the web to bring consumers closer to the legal profession. Just eight years later – it looks like Avvo not only joined the big leagues, but is now the only major player left standing – and have long been relegated to traffic irrelevance and now with Panda 4, FindLaw has joined them.

What to Expect If You are Advertising on Avvo or FindLaw

If the data above is indicative of FindLaw and Avvo’s performance overall, advertisers are going to start seeing a huge change in return on investment for their marketing spend.  As both Avvo and FindLaw essentially monetize their SEO performance as ads – I’d predict inbound traffic and call volume from FindLaw is going to crater. And if the data is correct (and the trend holds) I’d anticipate Avvo advertising rates to increase in about 3 months.

FindLaw Lawyer Websites Hit by Panda 4

My bigger concern is not really with the FindLaw domain overall, but their law firm clients who may have been negatively impacted by the tactics employed by their provider.  Did FindLaw website clients get hit too?  This is a little harder to diagnose, as most attorney sites are far too small to register on traffic reporting sites like Alexa.  BUT . . . anecdotally the answer seems to be yes.  Here are two data points:

1. FindLaw’s Pre-SEO’d Websites Hit

The day before the announcement of Panda 4, I wrote a post about FindLaw’s pre-built, pre-SEO’d sites . . . essentially websites being sold to Lawyers that were already ranking for highly competitive terms.  Seems like many FindLaw lawyer websites have disappeared entirely.  The examples I used –, and – which ranked on the first page for their respective key terms “geo _ dwi/dui lawyer” at the beginning of the week are no longer to be found in the search results.  Hand checking in on many other FindLaw sites shows the have disappeared too.  In a post today, A to Z Lawyer Marketing reports:

Well google just unveiled Panda 4.0 and it took FindLaw’s entire low quality network with it.    Hundreds of FindLaw sites have vanished from the SERP.   

2.  Forum Comments

Forum comments on the FindLaw’s Pre-SEO’d Websites Post anecdotally corroborate the data above:


If you suspect your FindLaw website has been hit by Panda . . . despair.  But just for a little while.  Then think about what makes Panda tick – that thin, recycled, low quality content.  Getting out of a Panda penalty is hard (and expensive) but is achievable. Check the stipulations of your FindLaw contract and thank your lucky stars this isn’t a Penguin issue where recovery is a much fuzzier, much harder, much more expensive.  If you are considering finding a new website or SEO provider, check out the FindLaw Jailbreak Guide.



Panda 4.0 Update – Lawyers Edition

Did your front desk phone stop ringing suddenly today?

Yesterday Google announced the launch of Panda 4.0 update – an update designed to further strengthen the quality of content they drive users to.  (Read that backwards:  Google is taking even more aggressive steps to filter out sites that deliver low quality garbage content.)

While this is an on-going roll-out, some results are already in and they are striking.

Alan Bleiweiss (as far as I’m concerned the web’s best Forensic SEO auditor) shared the Google Analytics data below showing just how massive an impact Panda can have on some sites.  What’s interesting in this case – its a client dealing with multiple algo penalties that has now cleaned up their act and under Alan’s guidance is played the game correctly and is seeing a massive upside from the Panda 4.0 roll-out.

Alan Bleiweiss

What Panda 4 Means For Lawyers

The legal industry is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to low end content – driven heavily by the “content content content” call that was drummed by the SEO industry eager to sell lawyers blogging platforms and posts.  Given the extent of what we’ve seen from people like Alan and the incredibly heavy buzz this has generated among SEO geeks, I’d expect to see a very heavy impact to the legal industry.  Legal marketer, Shely Fagin has already reporting a heavy improvement in rankings for Avvo (this has NOT been confirmed by my old friends at Avvo, but frankly doesn’t surprise me as from my past experience I know they have a huge commitment to quality content.)

What to Do

Strap in and watch your Google Analytics account. If you’ve been outsourcing content abroad, spinning content, paying anyone less than $20 a post, or have content developed by one of the big box providers – I’d be very concerned.   Make sure you know how to generate a filter to look only at “non-paid search traffic” (image below) and look for big changes.  I generally recommend patience – but this is a big shift and unfortunately you might now being paying the price for a hiring a low quality vendor.

FindLaw Selling Pre-SEO’d Websites

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?


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.)


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


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.


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 . . .


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 –, etc, 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 – 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.”




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

The Last 30 Days in Search – A March 2014 Recap

Each month there’s a ton of new articles published on the web regarding the latest news and trends in search marketing. Sometimes that news has to do with a Google algorithm update that can have huge ramifications for your business, and how you go about marketing on the Internet. Sometimes that news is about the latest tools, or best practices in search. And sometimes that news can be a simple statement from a well-known bigwig like Matt Cutts, but it can hint toward future updates, and give insight into Google’s perspective on search.

As marketers who serve the legal industry, we know that SEO can be a huge source of new business for attorneys. But it also can be difficult to stay abreast of the latest updates, and keep a pulse on the ones that are most applicable to the legal industry. So, to help you out, we’ve sorted through the last 30 days in search to identify some of the news we feel is most important for attorneys.

With that said, I give you the last 30 days in search.

Google Speaks Up on Disavowing Links

In a Google Webmaster forum at the beginning of the month Google’s John Mueller went on record to answer a user question regarding disavowing links to a website. With Google cracking down on paid and low quality links, many site owners are rushing to remove their links, or disavow them via webaster tools.  In this case the user was working on a website that was previously focused on gardening, and had a profile of links from other gardening related sites. However, the site had recently switched subjects, and he was worried that the gardening related links would now hurt the site beings they were unrelated to the new topic.

Here’s what Google’s John Mueller said:

Just to be completely clear on this: you do not need to disavow links that are from sites on other topics. This tool is really only meant for situations where there are problematic, unnatural, PageRank-passing links that you can’t have removed.

Then a few days later, Google’s Matt Cutts suggested in some cases that you should disavow bad links even if you haven’t been penalized, adding that if it’s only a couple bad links, it “may not be a big deal” though.

So, what does this mean to you? First off, I want to say that I don’t advise disavowing links to your site, unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. So please don’t run off and start disavowing links to your site. If you do this incorrectly you can actually hurt search traffic to your site. With that said, we’ve seen a number of attorney’s with bad link profiles, and two of which I’ve recently submitted link disavows for, after not getting a response from the sites hosting the bad links.

Here’s the question to ask yourself to assess if you’re a good candidate for link cleanup. Have you ever purchased links, or participated in a link exchange? If the answer is no, good work. Keep it that way. It will make your marketing much easier in the future. If you’re answer was yes, then it’s probably a good idea to have an SEO expert take a look into your backlink profile, and do some link cleanup.

Moz Local is Released for Managing Local Search Listings

Local search can be one of the most important, and difficult things to do for attorneys. If you do it right, you’ll show up in Google’s results with a map pinpointing your location, and any Google+ reviews placed neatly next to them like a beacon to potential clients. So, when you see one of the biggest names in local search release a tool and service to help you manage your directory listings, it makes you… happy. Or, perhaps relieved is a better word. Anything that can make managing directory listings for local search easier is a good thing.

Will Google’s Panda Attack Small Business?

At 2014’s Search Marketing Expo in San Jose, Matt Cutts announced that his team was working on the next Panda update that would have a direct impact on small businesses. For those familiar with the Google Panda update that was first introduced in February 2011, this may sound like reason for concern. After all, the original Panda was responsible for tossing many lawyers from the search results, deeming their sites as having “low quality content”. However, Matt Cutts and his team have explained that this algorithm update is meant to help small businesses do better in Google’s search results. There are no confirmed dates for when this update will take place, but it’s speculated that we could likely start seeing some changes within the next two to three months.

In related news, Google was also granted the patent for the Panda algorithm, ensuring Panda won’t be going anywhere.

Google is Reviewing Stance on “Not Provided” Keywords

In SMX West’s keynote, Google’s search chief Amit Singhal suggested that Google is reviewing their stance on “not provided” keywords in Google Analytics. If you’re not familiar with the “not provided” saga, here’s a quick recap.

In October 2011, Google started moving to “secure search”, which began limiting the amount of search query data website owners were able to access and view from within Google Analytics. Prior to this change you were able to view all of the different phrases that people used to arrive on your site, something very beneficial for improving user experience. For instance, if you handle DUI cases, you’d be able to analyze your search query data to see if you’re actually getting traffic on people searching for DUI, and see the exact phrases they’re using to find you. Since 2011 Google has continually reduced the amount of query data to the point now where 70-80% of query data is “not provided”. Meanwhile, Google’s been criticized for passing along the data to advertisers using Adwords PPC campaigns.

Our hope is that Google will return to it’s old system of passing along all search queries to website owners. However, it sounds somewhat unlikely, as Matt Cutts and Amit Singal have both said they’re happy with how secure search has worked on the organic side. So, does that mean Google will start withholding search query data for paid search clicks? We hope not. There’s no official statement on what they’re planning yet, but Amit has said:

In the coming weeks and months as [we] find the right solution, expect something to come out.

Even More FindLaw Link Spam

It’s amazing this site is still alive and kicking.  Just how many link scandals can FindLaw live through?

There’s a post today from LawDeeDa exposing FindLaw’s bot spamming of their directory.  Now, I’ve never heard of LawDeeDa or founder Brint Crockett before, but I do have quite a history with legal directories and the spam game played by FindLaw.  Brint’s done some very good sleuthing  exposing just how brazen FindLaw’s linkbuilding program has become.

In Summary:  LawDeeDa found their attorney profiles were being hacked by a single IP address in India – according to Brint, “every single falsified attorney profile whose identity I could confirm had the same law firm marketing agency:  Findlaw.”   Brint goes on to detail an email correspondence between himself and FindLaw – most interesting the flagrant admission from FindLaw about their linkbuilding spam not only on LawDeeDa, but other sites as well:

“These directory profiles were added on behalf of FindLaw customers in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Use, “17. User Posted Content & Other Interactive Services or Areas.” Based on your concerns we have removed from the list of directories we’ll send submissions to as of 5:00 PM on March 5.” – Mark Kalthoff of FindLaw

Welcome to the fray Brint.  I’ll buy buy you a beer.

If your law firm is listed below, know that at least according to LawDeeDa, FindLaw is working hard on your behalf spamming the search engines.  May I suggest a review of the FindLaw Jailbreak Guide?

Caught Up in FindLaw Spambot


  • Adam J Schwartz, Attorney at Law
  • Anderlini & McSweeney LLP
  • Angela Scarlato & Associates
  • Arthur David Malkin, Attorney at Law.
  • Assalone & Associates
  • Attorney Ronald Polan
  • Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler
  • Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
  • Barry Seidel & Associates, Attorneys at Law
  • Bills & Smith, LLP
  • Binder & Binder
  • Binder & Binder
  • Bohbot & Riles, LLP Attorneys at Law
  • Brian McCaffrey Attorney at Law
  • Bryan P. Keenan & Associates, PC
  • Bryant Whitten, LLP
  • Bull & Davies, P.C.
  • Butler Daniel & Associates, P.L.L.C.
  • Carolann Aschoff PC
  • Caroselli Beachler McTiernan & Conboy, L.L.C.
  • Christina A. Marino
  • Christopher A. Wellborn, P.A.
  • Ciancio Ciancio Brown, P.C.
  • Ciesla & Ciesla, P.C.
  • Clark, Love & Hutson
  • Dallas W. Hartman P.C. Attorneys at Law
  • David Coffin PLLC
  • David Holmes, Bankruptcy Law
  • David Low, P.A.
  • David Yeremian & Associates
  • Denlow & Henry
  • Disability Rights Law Center – Alex Boudov, Attorney at Law
  • Dorazio Law Office
  • Dozier Law Firm
  • Edgar Law Firm LLC
  • Edward R. La Rue
  • Eglet Wall Christiansen
  • Ellis Law, P.C.
  • Finkelstein & Goldman PC
  • Foglia & Associates, P.C.
  • Fox & Fox, S.C.
  • Gigliotti & Gigliotti
  • Ginsburg & Redmond, P.C.
  • Godoy Olivieri, Ltd
  • Goldstein & Sutor, PLLC
  • Gori Julian & Associates, P.C.
  • Graham & Associates Law Offices, LLC
  • Gregory C. Starkey & Associates
  • Hadas Law Group, LLC
  • Hallauer Law Firm
  • Harwell, Brown & Harwell, P.C.
  • Higgins, Roberts & Suprunowicz, P.C.
  • Hill Macdonald LLC
  • Horak & Boyd, PLLC
  • Irom, Wittels, Freund, Berne & Serra
  • J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA
  • Jacobs & Dodds
  • Jacobs & Jacobs LLC
  • Jameson Babbitt Stites & Lombard PLLC
  • John C. Jones, Attorney at Law
  • John D. Smith Co., L.P.A.
  • John E. Fitzgerald, Attorney at Law
  • Johnston Law Group, PC
  • Jonas Price, LLC
  • Jonathan Feldman, Attorney at Law
  • Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)
  • Kaplan & Seifter
  • Kathryn T. Joseph & Associates, Inc.
  • Kathryn Williams, P.A.
  • Kaufman, Payton & Chapa
  • Keis George LLP
  • Kelton & Teichner
  • Kenneth F. Bromet, Attorney at Law
  • Kevin Qualls Family Law
  • Knight Law Firm
  • Knight Law Firm
  • Laura Dale & Associates P.C.
  • Law Advocate Group, LLP
  • Law Office of Daniel W. Dunbar
  • Law Office of Esperanza Cervantes Anderson
  • Law Office of Henry B. LaTorraca
  • Law Office of Jennifer Zorrilla
  • Law Office of Michael D. Weinstock, P.A.
  • Law Office of Michael E. Pitts
  • Law Office of Nicholas M. Moccia, P.C.
  • Law Office of Rebecca Garren Parker
  • Law Office of Robert Braverman, LLC
  • Law Office of Robert L. Cullen, LLC
  • Law Office of Roberta L. Edwards, P.A.
  • Law Office of Sivertson and Barrette
  • Law Office of Thomas A. Johnson
  • Law Office of Thomas P. Sinton, P.A.
  • Law Offices of Clayton R Dickenson
  • Law Offices of Dan Allan & Associates
  • Law Offices of Dischell, Bartle & Dooley, PC.
  • Law Offices of Max Benkel, P.C.
  • Law Offices of Richard Koch
  • Law Offices of Roger Ghai
  • Law Offices of Steven I. Kastner
  • Law Offices of Wilson A. LaFaurie
  • Lawrence G. Townsend, Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Lawson & Reid, LLC
  • Leonard M. Caputo, P.C. Attorneys at Law
  • Lisette M. Spencer, Attorney At Law
  • Logan & Logan Attorneys at Law
  • Manfred Sternberg & Associates, PC
  • Marcus A. Rosin, P.C.
  • Marrone Law Firm LLC
  • Martin LLC
  • Mary V. Carrigan, Attorney at Law
  • Matt Karzen LLC
  • McKinney Law Office
  • Megan M. Collins, Attorney at Law
  • Melvin Law Firm
  • Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C.
  • Mission Law Group
  • Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard & Walker, P.C.
  • Neal Ashmore Family Law Group
  • Nickless, Phillips & O’Connor
  • Odom Law Firm
  • Oliva & Associates, ALC
  • Parvey & Frankel Attorneys, P.A.
  • Perrotta, Fraser & Forrester, LLC
  • Perry & Young, P.A.
  • Polidori Franklin & Monahan LLC.
  • Posey, Moye & Cartledge, LLP
  • Prater & Ridley Attorneys At Law
  • Pray Law Firm
  • Prestidge Law Firm, P.C.
  • QDRO Law Center
  • Rhine Martin Law Firm, P.C.
  • Richards & Richards Attorneys at Law
  • Robert D. DiDio & Associates
  • Robertson Law Firm
  • Rogers, Hofrichter & Karrh, LLC
  • Ronald W. Ramirez Attorney At Law
  • Rosenstein Law Group
  • Schwartz Law Firm
  • Shamy, Shipers & Lonski PC
  • Shelly Law Offices, LLC
  • Sherick & Bleier P.L.L.C.
  • Sherman
  • Shollenberger & Januzzi, LLP
  • Shuler Law Firm, LLC.
  • Sikov & Love P.A.
  • Skinner Law Firm L.L.C.
  • Spinella, Owings & Shaia, P.C.
  • Stolar & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation
  • The Cagle Law Firm
  • The Colleran Firm
  • The Epstein Law Firm, P.A.
  • The Gregory Law Firm
  • The Kehl Law Firm, P.C.
  • The Law Firm of Janice M. Greening, LLC
  • The Law Office of Bryan R. Snyder, APC
  • The Law Office of Bryce D Neier, PLLC
  • The Law Office of Corey I. Cohen
  • The Law Office of Troy Kiefer
  • The law offices of charles bonfante III & associates
  • The Law Offices of Heather J. Darling
  • The Law Offices of John S. Eliasik
  • The Law Offices of Judith A. Wayne & Associates
  • The Law Offices of Mark J. Werksman
  • The Law Offices of Mark Kelley Schwartz, P.C.
  • The law offices of Vincent J. Scotto III
  • The Oncale Firm
  • The Reyna Law Firm, P.C.
  • The Wilson Firm
  • The Wright Law Firm
  • Theresa Hofmeister, Attorney at Law
  • Thomas R. Lefly
  • Thompson & Evangelo, P.A.
  • Toppenberg & Burke, P.C.
  • Wade & Lowe, A Professional Corporation
  • Wallace & Wallace LLP
  • Warner Law Offices PLLC
  • Wesley, McGrail & Wesley
  • Whitlock Canter LLC
  • Wick & Trautwein, LLC
  • William E. Cassara, PC
  • William G. Yarborough Attorney at Law
  • Wilson-Goodman Law Group
  • Zimmerman, Lieberman, Tamulonis & Hobbs

(gasp) – still scrolling?  that was a long list wasn’t it?

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.   

More Horrific Attorney Marketing

The online marketing industry continues working hard earning its scummy reputation among lawyers . . .

The example below is so outrageous that it looks like a parody.  But its not.  It’s real attorney advertising and someone is paying for it.  (I know because I called and spoke to the attorney behind the site.)  This started with a friend of mine in the SEO industry – Mike Blumenthal – who forwarded me an email with the subject line: gotta love the chutzpa.

Fake Third Party Endorsements

Attached was a screenshot of a footer for what looked like a law firm website, with a tiny blue on blue disclaimer in broken English:

The logos above are sample only, we are not associated with these vendors.


Hmmmm . . .  the logos include the Better Business Bureau, the California Association for Justice, The Beverly Hills Bar Association and of course, my beloved Avvo.  We know that third party endorsements go a long way to allay concerns of prospective clients of law firms, but this goes well beyond misleading.

Note that the site looks like a law firm website, yet there is absolutely no personal information about an attorney or even a law firm name.  The on-page optimization is horrendous – there are 13 instances of the phrase, “Los Angeles DUI”, keyword stuffed meta tags and of course, the exact match domain.

Fake Client Testimonials

Even the faux testimonials are keyword stuffed with SEO optimized internal links.  And try reading the text here.

False Testimonials

If you want a chuckle, read all of the “testimonials“; here’s a favorite excerpt:

“DUI attorney Los Angeles is the best law firm in Los Angeles to handle the drunk driving cases in favor of their clients.”

Fake Social Media Widgets

My favorite touch on the site is the fake Facebook like counter which suggests there are a whopping 5,100 people who have liked this non-firm on Facebook.  This one had to take some time:

Fake Facebook Widget

Fortunately, the footer also contained a link to the  website developer.  Let’s see what happens here:

Ace Online

Just about what I’d expect.  So I gave Ace a call to see if they offered online advertising.  The guy who answered the phone assured me that he could get me ranking really high on the Internets.

To Be Fair . . . .

My final step was to call the number on the DUI site itself . . . which was answered promptly and professionally (some of you could learn a lesson here) by an attorney.  I forced some awkward conversation by asking for the name of his firm and his name (and vetted him on Avvo to see if he was, in fact really an attorney.  The guy was helpful (assuming I had really just gotten out of jail on a DUI), compassionate and professional.

For all I know he has no idea that some shoddy marketing firm is being so misleading on his behalf.  Caveat emptor lawyers, caveat emptor.


Update:  Mike Blumenthal digs deep into how this site surfacing is a failure of Google’s Hummingbird.

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.