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Is FindLaw Gaming Google?

Is FindLaw, one of the oldest online lawyer listing sites, gaming Google by buying and selling links to generate higher search rankings for customers? That's the question that Kevin O'Keefe examines at Lexblog. O'Keefe quotes from the story originally reported by Todd Friesen at that describes FindLaw's alleged practices:

* FindLaw sent unsolicited emails to lawyers and SEO experts selling a search engine marketing (SEM) program service.
* FindLaw's service sells a law firm up to 3 hard coded links to be placed on editorially relevant pages of content for $12,000 ($1,000 per month for a 12 month contract).
* FindLaw's service educates lawyers how to write the best text for their links (anchor text) so as to achieve higher search results for the lawyer's website.
* A law firm is 'allowed to submit up to 5 articles to be placed' in relevant areas of the FindLaw, with 5 additional links.

O'Keefe writes that Google will likely take action against FindLaw and worries that FindLaw's customers, some of whom paid as much as $1,000 per month for promises of higher search engine visibility, may be penalized unless FindLaw gives them a refund.

But at Lawsites, my colleague Bob Ambrogi has some concerns about some of the bloggers accusing FindLaw of scamming customers. Bob specifically mentions a post at Get Lawyer, which he describes as a company that "creates shell lawyer Web sites and then sells the leads that come in from those sites to lawyers."  As Bob describes:

For a consumer, the bottom line is this: It walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, but it's not a duck. A consumer visiting this site would have every reason to believe it is the site of a lawyer in Maryland who does criminal defense work -- especially with its first-person assurances, "I understand ... I can help." But a consumer who sends an e-mail or dials the number is instead sent through these companies to lawyers who have paid to receive these leads. The "I" who is providing these reassurances is not a single, real person, but bait to attract potential clients.

Bob concludes that the very company that is accusing FindLaw of running a scam is running a shell game of its own.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 18, 2008 at 04:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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