Internet marketing consultants, social media "experts," and SEO "professionals" seem to be everywhere these days. Lawyers have begun to recognize that they can no longer ignore the internet, even if they think it isn't their main source of business. Many are embracing the internet and are willing to spend money on designing professional looking websites, creating video, and optimizing their sites for the best possible visibility.
But too many well-intentioned lawyers are still falling victim to "black hat" SEO tactics, or tactics that don't present them in a professsional manner - and they don't even know it!
Bad SEO Strategy
When I see this happening, I want to reach out to these lawyers individually and let them know what a mistake they are making. For example, this morning, I received the following email (names and links have been changed, but otherwise the email is exactly as it was received):
I'm the Webmaster of http://www.xyzlawgroup.com/. Our website provides the details about Civil Related Law site etc. We are requesting you to provide a link for our website from your site links page. Kindly add and reply your site details.
I'm waiting for your response.
Add this Link in your site:
Title: First Party Insurance Lawyer
Site Description: Mr. B is the owner and lead trial lawyer for the B Law Firm in Large City, Texas. 15 years of civil trial and litigation experience. I have represented thousands of clients nationwide.
Once added my link remind me, I gave link to you in my law related blogspot.com http://crappylawblog.blogspot.com/
I wanted to respond directly via email, but instead, I decided to reply here, in an 'open' letter to the attorney:
Dear Mr. B,
I wanted to make you aware of some of the activity on the internet being undertaken on your behalf, including the sending of email spam in your name. This morning, I received the above email message that was sent on your behalf (although it came a gmail address, rather than your regular law firm email address), with your name, your law firm’s name and your website link.
Not only does this message request reciprocal links from another site which has no relation to your site at all, but no substantive reason has been given for the request (Google has made recent updates to its search algorithm specifically to combat these kinds of artificial links), and the message represents both you and your firm poorly with its improper English and sentence fragments.
In addition to referring to your regular website, the email references a blog where the requested "reciprocal link" to my site is to be placed. A quick review of the blog reveals although it is purportedly over two years old, it contains few posts, some of which reference accomplishments by other law firms. Others are about legal topics but appear largely unrelated to the actual law you practice. The internal links on the blog lead to completely unrelated posts. Glaring grammatical mistakes abound.
I doubt that this is the kind of professional presence you intend to project to potential clients.
A quick search of the internet reveals that someone has created several different sites on your behalf, most of which contain very little substantive content, almost none of which appears to be original.
Your main website, xyzlawgroup.net, at first blush appears impressive because of the updated design and available videos, but even a cursory further investigation of the site reverses that impression almost immediately due to the canned or copied content from outside sources and the distracting ‘slideshow’ at the top of the home page which repeats the same photo and text over and over, distracting the viewer from the information on the site, among other issues.
You should also be aware that some of the marketing tactics employed on your behalf may be a violation of your jurisdiction’s ethical rules. Although I am not a Texas lawyer and am not an expert in the Texas advertising rules or the Texas ethics rules, I would suggest that you review your internet presence in light of these rules. For example, the cumulative claims regarding results (“Completed over 3000 cases. Won 3000.”) on the blog my be a violation, even if a disclaimer were included (which it is not).
I would urge you to contact your webmaster or other internet marketing/ SEO consultant and find out exactly what is being done on the internet on your behalf, using your name and your firm’s name, to be sure that the measures being taken are not ‘black hat’ SEO tactics (which could result in your site(s) being penalized by the search engines) or a potential violation of ethical rules, and that they convey the proper professional presence and tone in their presentation.
It is clear that you have spent time and money on your internet presence, but it is not clear that you are aware of the other steps being taken on your behalf or the potential implications they may have for you and your firm.
Please note that I have marked the received message as spam, and would be willing to bet that others that received similar messages have done the same.
Best of luck with your website and your internet presence.
P.S. If you want more information about SEO tactics and what lawyers should be concerned about, you may want to look at these posts:
Optimizing your website with correct alt tags, title and meta tags and ensuring that you are using keywords to attract your ideal clients and drive traffic to your website are important. But it is even more important to ensure that once your ideal clients arrive at your website, they are receiving quality, original content that reflects who you are and how you can help them. Using canned content or content that makes you seem as if you're simply stuffing your site with keywords or sound like you can't put a complete sentence together in proper English isn't likely to impress anyone, let alone paying clients.
Don't let your webmaster or consultant destroy your reputation or make you look incompetent. Keep tabs on what they're doing, be aware of your jurisdiction's current ethical rules, and require anyone sending emails or placing content on the web on your behalf to get your approval first.
And for goodness' sake, if you receive an email like the one I received this morning, don't agree to the 'reciprocal linking' arrangement!