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FindLaw gaming Google, and possibly scamming lawyer customers?

FindLaw selling sponsored linksFindLaw appears to have been caught gaming Google by selling links to lawyer websites and, in the words of one blogger, possibly scamming their lawyer customers. And, as of Friday evening, it appears Google has already taken steps to penalize FindLaw.

Though there’s not much coverage yet on the legal blogosphere, FindLaw’s conduct has sure generated emails and phone calls to me. I suspect we’ll see blog discussion in the coming days, along with FindLaw’s response.

SEO basics to understand the severity of FindLaw conduct

One of the ways Google determines where a given site will rank for a specific search is the number and quality of inbound links to a website. The theory is that very interesting pages will be linked to by many other websites and blogs. A page or website with a lot of links therefore has a lot of authority (Google measures authority on a 1-10 logarithmic scale called PageRank).

Taking it one step further, a link from a high PageRank site (like CNN or FindLaw) is more valuable than a link from a low PageRank site. The more links to your website from sites with a high PageRank, especially from relevant subject sites (links from FindLaw to lawyer websites), the higher your website may appear in Google search results.

Now from Google’s webmaster guidelines as to websites and SEO consultants selling links to website owners trying to achieve search rankings.

Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site’s value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.

However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results. (emphasis added)

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag
  • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank. If you see a site that is buying or selling links that pass PageRank, let us know. We’ll use your information to improve our algorithmic detection of such links.

It’s text links, as opposed to advertising or directory listings, in website copy being sold to game higher search engine rankings that’s the clearly outlawed conduct. Throughout the SEO community the practice is called link spam or search engine spam.

Google takes link spam serious enough to have a designated group to prevent such conduct and penalize those who participate in the proscribed conduct. Headed by Matt Cutts, the Search Quality group at Google and Cutts are widely known across the Internet and the SEO community for enforcing the Google Webmaster Guidelines and cracking down on link spam.

What did FindLaw do?

The best summary is provided by Todd Friesen in a post entitled ‘Shame Shame Shame Findlaw.’ Friesen’s been doing SEO since 1998 and is currently the Director of SEO for Range Online Media which performs work for such clients as Sharper Image, Nike, Neiman Marcus and Accor Hotels North America.

As Friesen outlines:

  • 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.

FindLaw may contend that the links in any articles submitted are not link spam, but the article submission is optional and the selling of links otherwise appears to be a clear violation of Google’s guidelines.

Friesen and the SEO experts who commented to his post sure think FindLaw is guilty of link spam. Friesen goes so far to say, ‘It’s been nice knowing you Findlaw.’

Matt Cutts acknowledged in a comment on Friesen’s blog last Wednesday that he had been forwarded copies of FindLaw’s emails selling links. Cutts also posted at Twitter the same day that he enjoyed that post of Friesen’s.

Though I don’t monitor the PageRank of websites, I’m told FindLaw had a PageRank of 7 as little as a week ago. By Friday night, FindLaw’s PageRank was a 5, and remains so today.

A PageRank move is more than just a proportionate thing, it’s geometric in nature ala the Richter scale for an earthquake. A drop of 2 on PageRank is a very significant move, something that significantly diminishes the value of links from FindLaw to lawyer websites.

One email I received highlights FindLaw’s dilemma:

The most juicy insight that no one seems to have picked up on, however, comes from FindLaw’s own letter: “As you may or may not know, FindLaw has been providing SEM programs to law firms for the last four years. The product has been very successful at elevating the natural search results of law firms in all of the major search engines and has helped them generate more business from search engines.” (Emphasis in bold). So it seems FindLaw has been doing this for a while and only got caught when it moved outside of the law firm market. This admission means there are already firms paying FindLaw for this program – and now that Cutts has presumably removed the value of the links – a bunch of firms are essentially paying for nothing. By now, FindLaw knows this result – and the ethical thing to do would be to publicize their mistake and refund money. So far, FindLaw hasn’t done so.

Another problem for FindLaw is whether Google would penalize the websites which bought links. Imagine being a law firm paying FindLaw $12,000 per year for search engine optimization and having your website adversely effected in search results as a result doing so.

This is an unfortunate situation all around and one that law firm marketing companies, including LexBlog, as well as law firms should take notice of. Search Engine Optimization is something we all want to achieve, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything.

It’s now up to FindLaw to do the right thing for its customers and the legal profession as a whole. FindLaw calls itself the leading online law destination. FindLaw now needs to act like it.

Related posts:

  • http://www.myshingle.com Carolyn Elefant

    Ah, this explains a comment that I heard from a fairly experienced attorney a few weeks ago when I was explaining SEO at a social networking class. This attorney mentioned that a while back, he’d been approached by Findlaw and told that they could guarantee top placement on Google for a fee. I insisted that this wasn’t possible unless Findlaw was purchasing Google ads which would appear in the side columns. Apparently I was wrong – evidently, Findlaw could guarantee top placement, albeit illegally.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Interesting comment Carolyn. Now with the clout you and Ambrogi have over at American Lawyer Media and Law.com, let’s see news of FindLaw’s conduct reported in the National Law Journal and their other publications. ;)
    Seriously though, this is the sort of thing that should be reported on a wide scale by invesitigative reports in legal circles. That way lawyers can act in an informed fashion when selecting their legal marketing partners.

  • http://davidtcarson.com/ David Carson

    I remember Matt Cutts commenting (or at least hinting) in a video or blog interview a while back that sites caught receiving paid links will not be “adversely affected” or penalized in any way, but the value passed along by the paid link(s) would be wiped out.
    Unless Google has changed its policy, sites that have other quality inbound links shouldn’t be in too much trouble – they’re just no longer receiving any link juice from FindLaw.

  • http://www.scorpiondesign.com Brian Blades

    Thanks for posting about this Kevin. Ironically, we had this same discussion internally last week. We represent well over a thousand law firms, many of whom subscribe to FindLaw’s directory and other SEM products. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the SERP’s considering many of the highest ranked websites are FindLaw subscribers.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Most welcome Brian. After getting some emails and phone calls from folks, I felt obliged to post on the subject.
    You’re right that it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m seeing a lot of net discussion about FindLaw’s conduct and seeing the concern of lawyers who may have bought links from FindLaw.

  • Marc

    Ha ha! Their spammy techniques are gonna cause even more problems for them.

  • http://www.mattazuma.com Matt V

    I know of at least a dozen moderately popular blogs that have been removed from google for placing text link ads on their pages.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Google drops the people who took Findlaw’s money. Google has made it pretty clear that text ads without a “no follow” tag is a no no.

  • http://www.x-site-d.com Ann W

    I’ve warned a number of clients that were being actively pursued by FindLaw as to why they should run the other way.
    I provided detailed reasons- and third-party informational links as to why this was going to blow-up in FindLaw’s face.
    Told ‘ya so.

  • Richard

    I wonder if Reuters will run the story. ;-)

  • http://www.gameslaw.net Dan Rosenthal

    I’m glad to hear that Google is taking action in this case. As you and I have discussed (briefly) before in other posts, Kevin, situations where a lawyer (or a company like FindLaw, for that matter) does their primary business via the internet, they have a code of conduct that they ought to follow, or there will be repercussions. It looks like FindLaw did not adequately respect that “the internets” will fight back.

  • http://www.GreatLegalMarketing.com Ben Glass

    Of course the question for the consuming lawyer is: how could this have been prevented? Lawyers are relying on their SEO or web partners for advice, just like you may rely on a financial planner’s advice. That’s why you hire “experts.”
    I guess it goes back to “if it sounds too good to be true — “we can guarantee the first page of google and we aren’t using adwords”–then buyer beware.
    Besides what they paid to FindLaw, the measure of damages if the lawyer websites get “dinged” by Google is going to be tough. I’ve never been impressed by the sites Findlaw builds. The sites really don’t distinguish themselves, in my view, from the huge crowd of lawyer websites and very few, frankly, have figured out how to effectively convert web traffic to real clients.

  • http://greatlegalmarketing.clarislaw.com/marketing-advice/if-you-still-use-findlaw-better-read-this.php Effective, Ethical Marketing For Attorneys

    If You Still Use Findlaw, Better Read This

    Internet marketing it hard…its soooo crowded….everyone trying to get that highly valued spot on page one of Google. As Tom Foster of FosterWebMarketing teaches at our conferences, “I don’t know any one way of boosting Google rankings but I know…

  • http://blog.simplejustice.us shg

    Why must I always be the negative Nelly? I feel no sympathy for law firms, or companies marketing to law firms, gaming the system and getting nailed. They have no business marketing in this fashion to begin with, and certainly no right to claim foul when their “guarantee” of prominence, when they know there can be no legitimate guarantee, makes them comlicit in the offense.
    A pox on all their houses.

  • http://www.burke-eisner.com Dave Austin

    It’s also expensive. $12,000 for 3 links! Yikes.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    You’re right Scott, the law firms are complicit in this offense in that many of the firms line up to buy SEO like buying crack cocaine from a crack dealer. They just want their fix – no matter how they get it and no matter the price.
    But from Google’s standpoint, they can have a greater impact on this crap if Google cracks down on the unscrupulous dealers like FindLaw.
    The firms did not ask FindLaw if what FindLaw was selling them was legal under Google’s and other search engine companies’ guidelines. Perhaps the firms presumed a company like Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, with a CEO like Tom Glocer who thrives on relationship building through blogging, wouldn’t game the system. The law firms guessed wrong in the case of Thomson Reuters.

  • http://www.getlegal.com GETLEGAL

    Its illegal, its unethical!And why would you do that ? Overzealous SEM ( sales) MANAGERS broke rules to GET short term gains. I am not sure how the newly wedded partners Reuter folks will take it? My advice follow the basics, apologise to Attorneys, send press release and GETLEGAL.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    I don’t know getlegal. Looks like you are going for the spammy conduct award for a law site for this Wednesday. Goofy contents not using your name, but a website name for the link and then shouting at people your name at the end. Looks like comment spam to me.
    Any reason I should not hit the junk comment button which then updates the junk comment systems being used by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of blogs across the Internet to blackball your comments on blogs across the net so the comments go automatically to spam everywhere?

  • http://www.barelylegal.com neem100

    He writes:
    FindLaw SEO misconduct : Suggested course of conduct
    There’s little question in my mind that FindLaw’s selling links to law firms in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines was a big mistake.
    Not only may FindLaw be liable to law firms for the millions of dollars paid by law firms to FindLaw for these spam links, but FindLaw and its parent company, Thomson Reuters, has damaged its reputation and brand in the eyes of lawyers and the search community, including Google, for years to come.
    Dad always said there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle everything. FindLaw needs to do the right thing and to do it now.
    Here’s the right thing to do:
    Acknowledge immediately to your lawyer customers who bought the spam links and the legal community as a whole that ‘FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business,’ acted wrongly and in violation of Google’s webmaster rules.
    Apologize immediately to the law firms and the legal community for FindLaw’s course of conduct.
    Announce immediately that FindLaw will refund within 30 days all the money paid by the law firms for these links.
    Perform an immediate accounting of all monies paid for the links by the respective law firms. (Appears to be in the hundreds, possibly thousands of law firms and for all I know could be $3 to $5 million).
    Report the results of the accounting publicly.
    Hold the FindLaw people who authorized the sale of links, who had to know it was improper, personally responsible. That includes senior management who very likely knew.
    Establish an in-house ethics review committee and ethical standards protocol to prevent future improper conduct. Tuesday will be the 7th day since the news of FindLaw’s selling links was reported on the net as well as 7 days from when Google’s Matt Cutts became aware of the violation. And at least the 4th day since FindLaw was penalized by having its website PageRank dropped from a 7 to a 5.
    FindLaw has chosen not to respond – to the public, to its customers, or to bloggers. This is rather surprising in these days of corporate damage control and where word spreads like wildfire on the net.

  • Mark Merenda

    FindLaw using questionable SEO practices?
    My firm often finds itself in competitive selling situations with FindLaw, a company owned by the huge Thompson Reuters conglomerate (2007 revenues: 12.4 billion). After hearing us tell them how you build search engine ranking with a quality website and by adding significant content over time, potential clients will come back at us with: “FindLaw says they can get me to number one on Google in two weeks!” Now comes LexBlog’s Kevin O’Keefe to tell us at least one of the reasons why. Google greatly values links (links in to your site). Each link is a “vote” that your site is interesting and valuable. Buying or selling links, like buying or selling votes, is a big no-no. FindLaw is apparently offering to do exactly that, selling links to other law sites for $1,000 a month. Read about it here and here. (Tip of the cap to Lisa Solomon for bringing this post to my attention.)

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Great point Mark. You and I are small competitors compared to Thomson Reuters Billions. And it’s Thomson Reuters greed and willingness to cut corners that causes it to act in ways we would not to stoop to.

  • Boof

    are you poeple stupid? this is the best free marketing Findlaw could ever get. Attorneys don’t give 2 craps in an easter basket if something violates google. google isn’t law. they are an internet antitrust wiating to happen. findlaw took them on. give them some credit. they made a lot of money for themselves and, more importantly, made a lot of attorneys lots of clients / moolaa. since when did attorneys acquire ethics? findlaw has, and will continue to send them money. plain and simple. you are giving them wonderful, bubbly PR.

  • KevContributor

    True SEO professionals do not practice blackhat SEO! In the short-term it might be an effective tool for traffic results and pagerank. Organic SEO is setup to be a long-term strategy is much smarter way to go. I think findlaw is thinking more about quarterly profits than their customers websites. Or maybe NOT, because they are spending $12,000 for three links a MONTH. I wonder if they remember that the internet is a public medium, that means there is hardly any secrets in this industry of Organic SEO. Reminder: Google spiders are on watch 24 hours a day….

  • Jim Bailey

    I’m trying to reach Findlaw reps or former reps that know something about this. Please email me:
    jbails777@gmail.com

  • Susan Trudeau

    I’m confused about something – why is Findlaw back to PR 7 today?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    FindLaw is back to 7, my guess is based on representations FindLaw made to Google about what it had been doing and/or is going to cease doing. Question is whether FindLaw is being truthful or not in those representations.

  • http://www.stemlegal.com/strategyblog/ Steve Matthews

    If you compare the google cache for pages that used to contain raw links -vs- their page code now, you’ll see the ‘no-follow’ attribute has now been added.
    Google is satisfied, and the pagerank has been restored.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Hard to tell if no follow’s were added before the PR 5 to PR 7 change or after. Google cache from 8/15 does not have the no follow tags (so does not pass PageRank) on the links.
    Question remains what is FindLaw telling folks and what are they telling Google. I am hearing that FindLaw is saying they never sold links to lawyers, that they only sold links to corporate law portal sites, not lawyer or law firm websites.
    Seems to me though that FindLaw was selling links to lawyer websites in that some FindLaw web pages had 100 spam links to law firm websites which links FindLaw changed to have no follow tags on them after news of FindLaw selling links broke across the web.
    If FindLaw was clean on selling links to law firm websites, as they are apparently telling folks, including reporters, why the change to ‘no follow’ tags now?
    If FindLaw gets caught misleading their sales reps, other employees, reporters, lawyers, and the public as to what they were doing in an attempt to cover this up, this story is going to get much bigger.

  • http://www.ilawyermarketing.com Mike Perez

    Actually they are not using “nofollow” on the links they are selling. Findlaw is (was?) selling links on pages that are hard to find to most “human” visitors. These pages, as you can see, are strictly made to pump up rankings. For example:
    http://public.findlaw.com/localsites-personal-injury-01.html
    Most people wouldn’t even know how to get to this page but of course a search engine spider can. These pages are still “followed” links so no, they haven’t fixed everything. There are plenty of other pages I know about. I used to work at Findlaw from 2004-2006 so I know quite a bit about what they do. Those links packages by the way are more like $1,600-$2,500 a month.
    Are they misleading their reps? Not the ones that I talk to. They know these links are purely for raising rankings but the reps want to sell them because of the commissions they make from selling these packages.

  • James

    Guys…little FYI -
    1. Google doesnt own findlaw.
    2. Google has no authority to police anyones buying and selling of anything.
    If I create a policy that states, no one can comment on blogs anymore and then someone does, Have I “caught them” doing illegal activity? Did I “uncover a scam”? Should I report these people? Of course not, who am I to make such a policy? I am no one…thats exactly who google is…no one. Call me when the district attorney makes it illegal to buy and sell links…then youll have a story.
    So silly!

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    James, little information for you. You are missing the point.
    1) FindLaw sells links to pass PageRank for thousand plus dollars per month to lawyers.
    2) FindLaw doesn’t tell lawyers what they are buying may become worthless if FindLaw gets caught violating Google’s rules prohibiting selling links.
    3) FindLaw gets caught.
    4) FindLaw, to get in compliance of Google’s rules, places ‘no follow’ tags on the links, making the links worthless for passing PageRank.
    5) FindLaw does not appear to have told lawyers who have paid for links and who may still be paying by subscription for those links that FindLaw has been caught and of FindLaw’s corrective action making the links worthless for passing PageRank.
    6) Illegal as a violation of criminal law? No. But if true, certainly cullpable conduct, in my opinion, for which lawyers, in my opinion, may have a large civil claim. And calls into question FindLaw’s reputation for deaing fairly with lawyers big time.

  • James

    Google is not the only search engine, there are dozens. Show me anywhere Findlaw calimed that buying a link will result in higher organic listing on “Google”.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    You getting paid by FindLaw to carry their water James?
    I suspect FindLaw is hoping they’ll get a few people like you to muddy the waters. FindLaw sure ain’t willing to respond themselves to the allegations of their wrongful conduct.
    You think lawyers are paying thousands of dollars a month to be one of among 100′s of links to law firm websites buried in tiny text below the footer on FindLaw website pages because it does not help their search engine performance? Get real.
    As far as other search engines, you sound silly. I haven’t heard from too many, if any lawyers, worried about their rankings on MSN or Yahoo.
    As far as FindLaw claiming that buying links will help on search engines, it’s in their sales literature and per what their ex-employees have said, FindLaw representatives made the claim to lawyers.

  • James

    Kevin – I do work for findlaw but I am a strong proponent of exploring both sides of a story…like any good lawyer. Unless Findlaw was selling “higher organic listings in Google”, I don’t understand the problem. If anyone wants to sell links on their website and also claims that the links drive traffic and exposure to search engines, they have every single right to do so.
    What’s irrelevant is that one of the search engines (in this case Google) has a policy against selling specific types of links. If that’s Google’s policy great…again there are dozens of search engines and they all drive qualified traffic. The link on findlaw can also drive traffic. So the getting indexed by “search engines” is already only half of the benefit.
    Now I do agree that if Findlaw was selling or representing that they could get higher rankings in a specific search engine without have a partnership with that specific search engine to ensure this deliverable was achieved and maintained then Findlaw was being deceitful. I appreciate a healthy debate, thanks.

  • Trisha

    I havenet seen anything which shows that findlaw was selling “higher page rank on Google”. This story is turning into the rumor game. Selling links and buying links isnt regulated by Google. Google is not God and I see nothing which even illudes to the cliam that Findlaw mentioned anything about Google when these links were sold….what does google even have to do with this story?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Trisha, maybe you ought to look around the net. Look in blog posts and in blog comments. Look at the FindLaw site. Read what ex-FindLaw reps have been writing. No rumor here. FindLaw has been selling links.
    The gig is up. No half truths spread by folks like you is going to put the cat back in the bag. I’ve been around corporate America too long and investigated their tactics during 17 years as a trial lawyer. Unfortunately, many corporations are motivated by money and greed. And in an effort to protect their pocket books, some corporations don’t own up to their failures. Looks every bit the case here.
    FIndLaw got caught selling links a few weeks ago. Despite you denying it here it with the talking points FindLaw appears to have given folks like you (I am seeing the same points in comments on various blogs all in anonymous names), it is something that Google does in fact regulate as far as the value of the links effecting the search results for the websites linked to. FindLaw took corrective action to get back in Google’s good graces. That’s also not a rumor. It’s been documented on FindLaw’s own websites.
    My guess is, like others not disclosing who they are, that you work for FindLaw or have some relationship with them. It’s getting sickening to see all the same half truths in comments from you guys. Looks like you got the talking points directly from FindLaw or someone on their behalf.
    Rather than get cronnies to carry their water, FindLaw ought to comment on this themselves, blog about it on their own blogs, and share openly what they did. But that’s not the type of company FindLaw is.
    Instead of acting with integrity here and own up to their failures FindLaw hides behind people like you spreading half truths on their behalf.
    Shame on FindLaw and shame on you Trisha for being part of their game.

  • trisha

    You keep telling me they lied, you say look at other blogs…there is nothing on other blogs proving anyone lied.
    You keep telling people findlaw cheated people but there is no proof.
    You keep saying they sold link, so what…that’s not illegal.
    You keep citing Google but Google isn’t in any of their sales literature and not a single solitary person that “bought a link” has come forward to claim that they thought they were buying Google page rank.
    This is why few “bloggers” are taken seriously.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    You must still be looking for the video of OJ amd the knife. Where’s the proof? Or the video of Barry Bonds shooting up with steroids. Where’s the proof?
    Trisha, you’re a hoot.

  • Trisha

    Like I said, not links, no references…but I will not name call.

  • http://blog.larrybodine.com/2008/09/articles/current-affairs/google-slaps-findlaw-in-effort-to-crack-down-on-link-juice/index.html Larry Bodine Law Marketing Blog

    Google Slaps FindLaw In Effort to Crack Down On ‘Link Juice’

    The Web’s No. 1 search engine has charged FindLaw with the shady tactic of selling Web links — a.k.a. selling "link juice," designed to boost a Web site’s search engine rankings — such as the law firms that are FindLaw…

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Trisha, the story about the selling of links has now been reported by Dow Jones. FindLaw of course denies they sold links. But in light of what’s being reported, FindLaw’s denial is a little like saying the sun didn’t rise this morning.
    I understand your position, and presumably FindLaw’s, is that few “bloggers” are taken seriously because they just spread rumors. Dow Jones, unless a ‘Mr. Jones’ just started a blog is not a blog – it’s the Wall Street Journal company. But hey, they may just spread rumors too.

  • http://localmn.wordpress.com Paul Jahn

    I’m literally munching on popcorn reading this.
    FL did something that G doesn’t like and they may or may not take a penalty.
    A couple years ago, I was on their SEM team. With that said, I never hide my name and am not here to accuse or defend them. Personally, I think it’s a “what it is” type of thing.
    I’m with Tricia on why some bloggers are not taken seriously. Just let it go and do what you do well. From what I see on your site, you’re a prolific public speaker. Go with it!
    If you want to rip on me, feel free.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Thanks Paul, I appreciate your comments.
    If I have one fault, and God knows I have many others, it’s calling out what I see as wrong. It’s gotten me into political wars and courtroom fights in the offline world as well into contentious debates online.
    In these debates, I’m often looked at being some sort of kook for not just getting over it. This case of FindLaw cronies calling me out feels just like defense lawyers for corporations yelling at me from court house steps that I take representing the little guy against corporations too seriously. Or local politicians saying I am challenging their corrupt tactics because I want to draw attention to myself.
    What burns me is that FindLaw knew, or should have know, it was going to get caught selling links by Google sooner or later. Knowing that, FindLaw still sought to make millions of dollars off lawyers who had no idea of the game FindLaw was playing.
    I was a practicing lawyer for 17 years. I would have been pissed off if West (that’s what Thomson FindLaw was called back then) sold me something for $2,500/month that West knew could turn out to be worthless. That’s exactly what happened here in my view.
    Lawyers, who had not a clue about how Google works to penalize sites which sell links, were the victims of FindLaw gaming Google. Lawyers bought links that are now worthless.
    Sure, FindLaw can argue Google’s not God. Google has no right to control who can do what. But like you say Paul, it is what it is.
    Google penalizes sites that overtly sell links. FindLaw knew that. FindLaw came up with a product to sell links. FindLaw did not disclose to unknowing buyers that the links they were buying could well turn out to be worthless. Now that the links are worthless, FindLaw has not told the lawyers nor refunded the lawyers’ monies – at least that I know of.
    FindLaw’s response to being caught? Send out the dogs to fight their battle online clouding the issue and to imply O’Keefe and others like him are just nuts, they’re just bloggers spreading rumors, there’s no proof we did anything wrong.
    Great theatre created by FindLaw. Maybe merits popcorn. But it’s all a lot of bull. And when I see bull from corporations motivated by profit and greed at the expense of everyday citizens who don’t know better, in this case unknowing lawyers, I don’t chalk it up to ‘It is what it is.’

  • http://www.askbecca.com BOB

    Check this out
    ——————————————–
    Dear Valued FindLaw Customer:
    This is to provide you with an update on your recent inquiry. I want to clarify the
    situation and reassure you that we take our responsibility for providing sustainable and
    effective marketing solutions to our customers very seriously.
    Recent blog postings referenced a new corporate advertising product called SEMCorporate,
    which was introduced last month. Unfortunately, an unauthorized
    communication was sent to corporate advertising prospects with inaccurate information
    about what the product is and how it was intended to work.
    We realize there may be some confusion about the comments made and would like to
    clarify that SEM-Corporate is not a law firm product. To address any potential mix-up
    with our law firm marketing products and services, we decided to suspend the SEMCorporate
    product immediately.
    All of us at FindLaw are committed to your success. We strive to develop the most
    effective marketing solutions based on market-leading Web development expertise.
    Regardless of how Web marketing strategies, best practices and guidelines evolve, we
    will change with them to deliver you sustainable and effective marketing solutions.
    We apologize for any confusion or concern this may have caused you and thank you for
    your continued partnership with us. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to
    call us.
    Warm Regards,
    Jay Gast
    Vice President of Sales and Account Management
    FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters Business

  • Hank Shankleman

    This whole argument is silly. FindLaw did nothing wrong. What this sounds like is a lot of jealousy on the part of people who would like to do websites for lawyers but are for the most part unable to do so. Is FindLaw perfect? Of course not but I have yet to meet a person or company that is. Did FindLaw make a mistake here? I don’t think so. I do know that FindLaw builds the best websites today for attorneys and continues to help them become more successful. I read through all the postings and one common theme I kept seeing time and time again was the glee that was expressed at the “imminent” demise of FindLaw. I hate to break it to you people but FindLaw isn’t going anywhere. And by the way, as of this writing FindLaw has a page rank of 8.. That must drive you haters crazy.
    Here’s the bottom line though, FindLaw does the best job they can to design and develop and optimize a website they can. Google obviously agrees with the best practices that FindLaw utilizes or FindLaw would not be ranked at an 8 out of 10.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    FindLaw did nothing wrong? They charged upwards of $2,500 for links to pass PageRank to help law firm websites rank higher in the search engines. When FindLaw got cuaght they put ‘no follow’ tags on these links so Google would not keep penalizing FindLaw for wrongfully selling links. The ‘no follow; tags made those links worthless and best I can tell FindLaw did not refund money to lawyers.
    No jealousy here, I just wouldn’t be part of a corporation whose business ethics are in the gutter. Sure they’ll survive and prosper, lots of corporations acting poorly do.

  • Rebecca

    Has anyone been successful in getting a refund or terminating their contract with Findlaw?
    Our small firm is spending nearly $4700 a month and the results are getting dimmer every month.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Rebecca, what are buying that it is costing you $4,700/month? I directed your question to my followers at Twitter who are now responding with info.
    Please let me know what it is you think you are buying and we may be able to get FindLaw to refund monies and terminate the agreement. You can email me direct at kevin@lexblog.com or comment here.

  • http://www.legalpointer.com Ron Collins

    Just stumbled across this information, and saw that Findlaw’s page rank which now stands at 8, rather than the 5 page rank it had as of the publication date. Apparently, for popular web sites like Findlaw, a Google “penalty” amounts to nothing more than a wrist slap.

  • http://www.legalpointer.com Ron Collins

    Just stumbled across this information, and saw that Findlaw’s page rank now stands at 8, rather than the 5 page rank it had as of the publication date. Apparently, for popular web sites like Findlaw, a Google “penalty” amounts to nothing more than a wrist slap.

  • http://www.internetlava.com Jason Miller

    I’m sorry, but this entry has absolutely nothing to back it up. First off, the “Shame Shame Shame Findlaw” article on oilman.ca no longer exists, and how is it that a Canadian blog would have any authority on the topic anyway? Secondly, Findlaw.com is a PR7 not a PR5, so you are incorrect there. Third and most important, where is your example of a link that was sold to pass page rank? I just don’t see any. Selling an article entry with a link to a website does not constitute as “selling links to pass page rank” anyway. If you want to see a true example of a site that sells links to pass page rank, look at http://www.hg.org/lawfirms.html. You will see banner ads along the top and the sides of the page, these are obviously paid ads and are not designated as such like they should be according to Matt Cutts of Google. Many of the firms buying links from HG.org are clients of Scorpion Design, Justia, and Findlaw. Are these companies buying these spam links on behalf of their clients? Or, are the clients acting alone? Who knows, but if you look at the source code of these banner ads, it is obviously a Google spam violation. Next time you decide to post a blog entry about someone selling spam links, have the evidence to back up what you are saying.

  • http://www.williamchristoph.com Jun-Jun

    There’s way too many spam sites anymore, it’s just sickening. I wish people would actually work honestly to earn their respect and money. But I won’t be holding my breath anytime soon. Thank you for sharing this, I hope more people realize.