FindLaw selling links SEOIn comments on this blog and throughout the blogosphere FindLaw cronies have been denying misconduct in the FindLaw selling links debacle. When the cronies realize they’re on the short end of the argument, they just fall back on ‘you’re just bloggers, you spread rumors, this is why few bloggers are trusted, there’s no proof…’

Well the mud just got a little deeper for FindLaw today. Dow Jones’ Nat Worden reported this afternoon that FindLaw has been slapped by Google for shady SEO tactics and that lawyers are now questioning the SEO marketing product FindLaw sold them.

Worden explained that FindLaw came up with a ‘SEM Advantage’ product which cost some lawyers $2,000 per month.

Billed as a “high-octane” way to double or even triple traffic on his site, Newell [FindLaw lawyer customer] and others like him understood FindLaw’s SEM Advantage product to be a package of well-placed links designed to lift a Web site’s standing in a Google search. But now they’re wondering if they’re still getting their money’s worth.

Worden reports FindLaw may have pulled the wool out from under these lawyers.

Late last month, FindLaw quietly made changes to a link on one of its Web sites leading to Newell’s site, which he had received as part of SEM Advantage. It also changed at least 99 other links to the Web sites of law-firm clients after it ran afoul of Google Inc. (GOOG) in the search giant’s ongoing efforts to crack down on a practice known as selling “link juice,” or Web links designed to boost a Web site’s page rankings in a search engine. With the link juice trade springing up as a cottage industry across the entire spectrum of online marketing, Google views it as threatening the quality of its search engine, an asset that has made Google a dominant force in media.

Read on in Worden’s article and you’ll see that FindLaw made the changes adversely effecting lawyers like Newell because FindLaw had been caught by Google for selling links in violation of Google’s guidelines. Something in my opinion, FindLaw knew or should have known it was going to get caught doing.

Worden concludes with what is most alarming, and perhaps why FindLaw is not owning up to its misconduct.

The controversy comes at a difficult time for FindLaw’s parent company, Thomson-Reuters, which publishes a news service that competes directly with Dow Jones Newswires and is delivered on the same terminals. Its stock price is down about 20% over the last year amid concerns that the U.S. financial crisis will quash growth in its financial markets division. Investors are counting on its professional division to pick up the slack, and its legal services business, for which Findlaw is a small but important growth engine, made up 66% of that division’s revenue in the first half.

Imagine if FindLaw confessed to duping lawyers for millions of dollars (not saying they did, just looks to me like they did). Imagine having to refund millions of dollars. Imagine having to refund these monies after paying millions of dollars in sales commissions on the sale of this ‘high-octane SEM Advantage Product.’ Imagine how investors would view Thomson Reuter’s stock then.

Scary stuff for FindLaw and their parent Thomson Reuters. Scary stuff for lawyers relying on FindLaw going forward.

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  • The cost of doing business on the internet continues to climb. The idea that the internet would level the playing field is being sold out.
    As a advertising media for lawyers the internet will be come more and more costly and ineffective from a ROI point of view to the point that only internet legal experts and very large companies and firms will be able to play.

  • Trisha

    I am not a cronie of findlaw Kevin…Just like you are not a cronie for the lawyers that bought links…I am just an advocate for common sense. Like I said, I dont care if Findlaw burns but what did they really do?
    Exibit A: Sold links to willing buyers
    Exibit B: Google has a policy agaisnt doing this
    My Conclusion: Who is Google to tell findlaw they cant sell links. Who is anybody to accuse Findlaw of selling page rank in “Google” when there is in FACT no proof of them doing so. If there is will someone…anyone please send me a link. I dont care if they sold the link for a million dollars.

  • Zack Evans

    Kevin – When you say “Findlaw got caught”, I dont get it. We sell links on our site and its our right to do so. Google maybe the largest search engine but they have no authority over findlaw or anyone for that matter, they are a for profit company with no right to impose rules or regulate Internet commerce. As for Findlaw dupping lawyers, did they promise soemthing other then putting the link on the site? FIndlaw does have millions of users….what am I missing here?
    in 2000, Drkoop.com paid AOL 80 million dollars for a link on their hom page called “health”. Did AOL dupe drkoop.com or did they maybe just pay a little too much. You cant steal from someone that wants to pay you.

  • Kevin writes: “FindLaw cronies have been denying misconduct in the FindLaw selling links debacle. When the cronies realize they’re on the short end of the argument”
    Linkbait

  • Dr. Koop buying banners and sponsorships is far different. They bought ads – for name recognition and for getting people to click on that banner to come to the Dr. Koop website.
    Here FindLaw was selling links not to be clicked on but to game Google so as to give lawyer websites better performance in Google’s search results. In fact, many of the links were buried below footers at the bottom of FindLaw websites in text so small almost no one could read it.
    What the lawyers were buying was as FindLaw called it ‘high octane’ search performance like FindLaw was selling. So when someone searched on Lancaster injury lawyer in Google, the lawyers website would come up because they bought links from FindLaw.
    The problem is that the lawyers did not know what FindLaw was selling was eventually going to be worthless. Only FindLaw knew or should have know that. Worthless because FindLaw would get slapped by Google like they did.

  • Tricia common sense only works if you get the issue. You’re missing it.
    No willing lawyers here. Do you think the lawyers knew what they were buying could well turn out to be worthless? Of course not, only FindLaw knew or should have known that.
    When you’re selling something, you have to disclose a material fact to a buyer. That’s the law. Failure to do so results in the buyer having a claim to get their money back. That’s the issue here.
    There is not a lawyer in a thousand that knew Google had rules against selling sponsored links. Only FindLaw knew that. In addition, my guess is that few, if any, lawyers who bought the links, know that FindLaw itself took action within the last few weeks to make those links worthless – by putting ‘no follow’ tags on the links to get back in Google’s good graces.
    Who cares whether Google has the right to say who can sell links or not? That’s not the issue.
    Here’s the common sense. FindLaw loved Google’s system of ranking websites higher when the websites had links pointing to them from high ranking websites. FindLaw made millions playing that game based on Google’s rules. Now that FindLaw got caught gaming Google to its advantage, FindLaw and folks like you start whining who is Google to make the rules.
    You can’t have it both ways.
    Fact is FindLaw is dam lucky a smart lawyer hasn’t started a class action law suit against FindLaw on behalf of the lawyers like the one mentioned in the Dow Jones report who paid thousands a month to FindLaw, only to have FindLaw not deliver on their end.

  • trisha

    Findlaw has 3 million users…you cant have it both ways either. Findlaw sold the links so that people (not search engines) would go to those sites. If a lwayer thought that more search engines would index their site becuase of these links then they were hoping that the hot lady came with the corvette. Findlaw was selling links. Nothing shows that they promised anything else. But I continue to look for that and If I find something I will share it…please do the same.

  • trisha

    BTW – Google’s policey has nothing to do with Findlaw selling links, thats googles policey not findlaw’s

  • No offense Trisha, but you aren’t Tricia Peterson, Product Portfolio Manager, Web Solutions, for Thomson FindLaw who was spearheading the SEM Advantage Program for FindLaw are you?

  • Trisha

    Kevin….you’re doing it again! You’ve found one thing that looks possible and linked it to something that it is not. No, just because my first name is Trisha doesnt mean I work for Findlaw, same way as just because Findlaw sold links doesnt mean that findlaw promised “Better organic results in a search engines called google”. You want to make the connection…but you are forcing it.

  • Wow! Nice spin Tricia! Kudos. They were caught red handed selling “keyword enriched” links to game Google’s PageRank algorithm period. Why else would they just list a whole bunch of “keyword enriched” text links on their lawyer marketing site, legal connection site and throughout Findlaw.com? This makes absolutely no sense if, as you contend, they were referencing these sites as resources to the user. But that is besides the point. They were caught soliciting via email and through thier sales reps a product where law firms and other companies could purchase text links created in a way to increase rankings and PageRank.

  • Trisha
  • Richard Jennings

    Kevin, with all due respect. I have to agree that I have also not seen any proof that findlaw represented that buying the link would increase “page rank in google. If you have a link to this, can you share?

  • Thanks for comment Richard. I appreciate it.
    What FindLaw represented was that by paying for the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) Advantage package you would get improved search results. The lawyers did not care how FindLaw got those search results and if FindLaw explained how they were going to do it, the lawyers would never have understood it.
    FindLaw then went and placed spam links around its web properties to give those lawyers who paid for the SEM Advantage product Google Juice to the lawyers’ websites.
    Give us money, we then without you knowing it, or even caring, put up links for Google Juice in violation of Google’s guidelines.
    When FindLaw got caught by Google placing these spam links on their FindLaw property websites, FindLaw started taking away these ‘Google Juice’ links.
    That’s as clear as you can get it Richard and all you need to do is connect some pretty big dots.
    Look at the FindLaw SEM Advantage Product Literature. Look at how lawyers paid upwards of $2,500 a month for the SEM product for high search engine rankings. Look at the FindLaw website properties before a couple weeks ago that included the spam links for Google Juice. Look at how an SEO expert blogger blew the whistle on FindLaw a few weeks ago. Look at how FindLaw’s PageRank (how Google ranks the value of a website) was reduced from a 7 to a 5 right after that blogger blew the whistle. Look at how FindLaw started eliminating those spam links after their PageRank was reduced.
    I don’t have the money, time, nor inclination to produce public broadcasting documentary that I could put at YouTube for you. If I did I could then provide you a link.
    Read today’s post for more info. And no, I won’t have the former FIndLaw rep in a blacked out imagery with his voice muffled for the documentary.

  • So what ended up happening to findlaw? I understand the paid links were mostly legitimate when first posted, but once Google disregarded such links, they became worthless and a “scam”. Any update on findlaw?