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FindLaw Linkgate : Former FindLaw sales rep blows whistle

FindLaw selling links SEOThings are getting interesting in what’s best called the ‘FindLaw selling links scandal’ or Linkgate that’s been widely discussed across the net – in legal and SEO blog posts, comments on blogs, on Twitter and now reported in the the Wall Street Journal.

FindLaw’s been reportedly selling a service to lawyers whereby FindLaw gets high search engine results for the law firms. FindLaw calls this product SEM (Search Engine Marketing) Advantage.

The problem is that a key element to FindLaw’s methods for getting high search engine results for the firms is the placing of links around FindLaw property websites, not links for users to click on, but links in tiny text below footers on webpages. They’re called ‘spam links’ and in violation of Google’s guidelines.

FindLaw got caught by Google a couple weeks ago for allegedly selling links. FindLaw started changing the ‘spam links’ so that the links no longer provided ‘Google Juice’ to the lawyers’ websites. Doesn’t appear FindLaw has told the lawyers who paid upwards of $2,500 per month for this SEM Advantage product that FindLaw got caught by Google nor that FindLaw took away a significant part of the lawyers’ ‘Google Juice.’

FindLaw will not respond to bloggers but did respond to the Wall Street Journal saying ‘We don’t not sell links to law firms.’ I am also informed from a reliable source that talking points given to FindLaw employees in order to respond to blogged reports of FindLaw misconduct includes the same ‘We don’t not sell links to law firms.’

FindLaw did say they may have sold links to corporations, but never law firms. And that the sale of such links has stopped and the money has been refunded to those corporations.

Now we have an informed source known to be a former FindLaw Sales Representative blowing the whistle on FindLaw’s misconduct. What started as simply misconduct is appearing to me to be every bit a coverup – Linkgate.

Here’s a comment from the source on a leading SEO blog.

FindLaw SEO selling links

And another comment on the same blog from the same source.

FindLaw selling links for SEO

And yet another comment from the same source.

FindLaw selling links SEO

Readers, please keep that information on Linkgate coming. If need be, set up an alias email address at GMail to send me information and documents. I’ll do my best to share what I can.

Related posts:

  • http://www.webmd.com Steve

    Here’s my theory. Findlaw was selling links to willing buyers. A Blogger realized this and wrote a story about it thinking he found something. A few other bloggers caught the story. Google in a panic realized that people were going to start asking themselves, “Who is Google to tell anyone they cant sell links when they are making billions doing it? Then Google contacted Findlaw and asked for their cooperation to keep this thing in the pot. They want to maintain the illusion of control. Google can kiss my ass.

  • anon

    Selling links in LexisnNexis directories is common practice, as it is at Justia. FindLaw is doing ahdy stuff all the time, and im not surprised they dont get busted. Justia has obvious link farms; just one of my fav’s – http://doglaw.hugpug.com/lawyers/

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

    What probably made FindLaw really jump out is the overt selling of links. Other companies have search engine optimized websites like Justia, but do not charge extra for links.
    The first feature being sold in in what FindLaw was selling lawyers as a ‘SEM (search engine marketing) Advantage’ product is described in FindLaw sales literature as ‘Inbound Linking,’ including links from FindLaw Properties (FindLaw.com, LawyerMarketing.com, and LegalConnection.com).
    Seems to me that if you buy a law firm a website, which in FindLaw’s case may cost $15,000 to $25,000, that you shouldn’t then have to buy links to get SEO so your website can be seen effectively on Google via FindLaw’s SEM Advantage program at a cost of upwards of $2,500 per month.

  • Jamers

    I’ve seen Kevin from Lex Blog push several false accusations for weeks now like he was being paid to do it. And after analyzing the industry of law marketing you begin to realize that Kevin and a few of the other “shame on you” story tellers are directly competing with findlaw for marketing dollars. So in a way, they are getting paid to do it. I think we should realize the economics of this so we understand who’s motivated to say what. Taken from Kevin’s own blog, “A LexBlog package is a turn-key lawyer Internet marketing solution — you’re ready to go faster than you ever thought possible! Whatever your needs, budget or package you choose, here’s what we do for you”.
    Should we take the word of an organization who is in direct competition with the organization they are accusing? Honestly…this is so silly and I am shocked that this guy has mouthed off as long as he has without a proper smack down. Kevin – Seriously, STFU, you are a capitalist liar in pursuit of nothing more then selling your next deal!

  • James

    ANother blurb from your own site Kevin which describes the services you yourself offer -
    “Perform Search Engine Optimization to increase your legal blog’s ranking and keep you up there: We’ll hardcode your site for better performance, plus teach you techniques to easily optimize whenever you add content”.
    So I see you are an expert at gaming google too. Ow I love when the truth comes out..its always so perverted!

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

    Gee Jamers, I hope your ‘analyzing the industry of law marketing’ didn’t take longer than a minute.
    Heck yes LexBlog’s turnkey blog solution competes with FindLaw. The rest of the world knew that for the last 5 years without taking Sunday afternoon off to do an analysis of the ‘industry of law marketing’ like you did.
    Maybe if you got to the 10th minute in your analysis, you’d have discovered I’ve been commenting on effective Internet legal marketing of all kinds, including mixing it up with more than one company and lawyer, since 1997 – that’s back when you were playing T-ball.
    Before you forget make sure you drop that email to the Wall Street Journal explaining how Dow Jones competes with Thomson Reuters, FindLaw’s parent company. The Wall Street Journal reported these ‘false accusations’ as well.
    ‘Capitalist liar.’ Boy, those are some strong words coming from someone who does not want to disclose who they are or let us know where I have misled anyone.
    As for when you’re going by ‘James,’ sure LexBlog uses technology that works well to get content well indexed on Google. Getting content well indexed, if you didn’t know, allows it to be found effectively on relevant searches – it’s part of SEO work.
    Who wouldn’t use Web standards/CSS development to perform better on Google than the old tables & cells web development? Who wouldn’t use Google site map technology so that a blog gets indexed effectively? Who wouldn’t use a system that displays blog titles in title and header tags?
    If those things are considered gaming Google by guys like you, who probably wouldn’t know proper website & blog development and ethical SEO if it hit you the face, then lock me up.
    If I’m FindLaw, I’d be out talking about this issue myself, as opposed to having surrogates like this guy carrying my water. Having people like James/Jamers speak on your behalf damages the image of our legal profession big time.
    I’m sorry if I offended anyone in my comment here. Maybe I should have just concluded cheap shots like the above don’t merit a response. I’m still learning.

  • http://sfolaw.com sfolaw

    Buying and selling links has always been a shady issue with SEO and SEM people. Places like find law and others do so because the think they don’t have to worry about being called out. internet marketing is a dog eat dog industry. So, if you do something on the edge to and get caught don’t complain or cry about it. It is what it is.

  • http://www.burke-eisner.com Dave

    Kevin,
    I’m loving this series of posts. For me some of the most entertaining I have read in a long time. Keep “mouthing off”
    Competition in the blog world is good for all.

  • http://www.ehlinelaw.com/ Injury Lawyer

    Findlaw still sells links IMHO. It’s the only way they can get their Firmsites to rank. They just say they don’t sell links, but in reality, a simple backlink check of any Firmsite shows where the links are coming from.
    Findlaw makes no effort to put no follow tags, so it’s selling links IMHO. By the way, if you don’t buy Firmsite, you don’t get the links.
    Obiously, Findlaw doesn’t want to give away linkjuice unless you buy a Firmsite. That is selling links IMHO.

  • http://www.pilka.com Probate Lawyer

    Kevin,
    Absolutely stellar post. I LOVE it when the big guys get popped, and they Should have seen it coming. I hope their ‘legal contract’ covered them well, cause you know they’re going to get sued.

  • http://www.ehlinelaw.com/ Michael Ehline

    Yeah. Their contract has a forum selection clause for Minnesota, so if you feel like suing there go for it. The only other way to get around it is a class action suit for fraud to invalidate the clause.