If you are a lawyer or work in the legal field, you’ve probably heard of FindLaw already – it claims to be “the nation’s #1 website for legal information, with four million unique visitors each month."
FindLaw helps individuals and organizations access legal information and find a lawyer who can solve their legal problems.
At the same time, it offers lawyers and law firms online marketing services, including search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing. These services are centered around the lawyer’s or law firm’s website, whose reputation and popularity FindLaw is often hired to boost.
Many lawyers and law firms use FindLaw’s marketing services hoping to increase their Google ranking, generate more traffic and leads, consolidate their online presence, and promote their legal services to a wider audience.
While FindLaw is an award-winning site who has helped plenty of lawyers grow their practice, it has been criticized by many over the years, and for good reasons. There are a couple of things you should know about FindLaw.
FindLaw and Black Hat SEO
FindLaw was penalized by Google in 2008 for using Black hat SEO tactics that violated Google’s Webmaster guidelines. According the the article, FindLaw was found using low-quality links to trick search engines into ranking their clients’ websites higher than they deserved. This was done by submitting legal websites to spam networks, directories, and blogs in an effort to build a lot of links fast.
The number and the quality of the links a website gets from other websites is a key ranking factor for Google and other search engines.
In the last few years, after repeated Google updates penalized websites with low quality links and webspam, many law firms using FindLaw have suffered from major drops in their Google ranking, which had a major impact on their reputation.
FindLaw and Poor Quality Legal Marketing Services
In addition to its history of black hat SEO tactics, there’s solid evidence that FindLaw’s marketing services aren’t great.
FindLaw blogs have been severely criticized, and the company’s poor SEO tactics have been exposed by case studies such as this one, in which a law firm that was paying FindLaw $5,000 a month ended up receiving low-quality SEO services.
According to that study and other experiences shared by lawyers using FindLaw, there are many drawbacks to using the company’s services:
- Very expensive long-term contracts that are difficult to cancel or get out of.
- Lack of transparency regarding the SEO marketing they do.
- Poor stock content that is little more than sales copy generated using templates.
- Bad page titles stuffed with keywords.
- Bad URL structure and lack of proper SEO tags for your content, such as image ALT tags.
- Advertising banners on your website that promote FindLaw.
- Poor local SEO optimization for multiple locations.
- Low-quality, sensationalist blogging strategy focusing on news items such as accidents as opposed to informative and enduring SEO content.
- FindLaw uses its own proprietary site analytics instead of Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools, which can result in poor site monitoring and performance. Furthermore, SEO-related data cannot be exported should you stop working with them.
The bottom line is that FindLaw’s legal marketing services have upset enough lawyers and law firms to make you want to think twice before using them.
If you already use their services and are happy with the results, it might be time to do a strategic review with your account manager. Take some time to find out how they are staying ahead of the Google and search engine algorhythm changes.
Ask the following questions:
- Is Google Analytics installed on my site? If so, can I have access to it?
- How is content created for my website? Is it original content, or has it been used before?
- How are you keeping up with Google search engine algorhythm changes, and how has that changed your strategy over the years?
- Are paid ads being run to Findlaw;s website, instead of my own?
If you do not get clear and straightforward answers to these questions, it is time to get a second opinion.
On the other hand, if you are not happy with the results you have been getting, you may want to review your contract before bad SEO tactics and low quality content marketing irremediably affect the reputation of your legal practice.