Check that your wallet is still in your purse or pocket when an "expert" starts talking to you about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
According to Dan Jaffe, CEO of LawLytics, the SEO industry is unregulated and lacks professional accountability that we, as attorneys, consider axiomatic to our profession. Literally anybody can create a website and call him or herself a SEO expert.
- There is no educational requirement.
- There is no entrance exam.
- There is no character and fitness hurdle to clear.
- There are no requirements for ethical behavior or continuing education.
- The search engine optimization industry has attracted a range of fraudsters and scam artists. Some of them are felons with crimes of moral turpitude that prevent them from gaining legitimate employment.
Pro Tip: Always run a criminal background check on an individual SEO provider who has not been directly referred to you by a trusted source. Always check references. A law firm SEO provider will literally have the power to not only get you into a marketing dilemma, but also into an ethics quagmire.
Danger Signals to Watch For
There are tens of thousands of nefarious SEO professionals practicing in the United States, and many thousands who focus their sales efforts on law firms. Although it is not always easy for lawyers to spot shady SEO providers, here are some signs that the claimed professional might warrant additional due diligence, verification or investigation.
- They called you, unsolicited. Would a true SEO expert need to cold call prospects? Of course not. They would have all of the business they could need or handle. They would not be engaged in prospecting activities.
- They promise quick results. Even the best SEO strategist has no control over what Google and the other search engines do. If they use the phrase “the top of Google” in conjunction with a promise to your law firm, they might as well be saying “I'm a sleaze-ball who will steal your money, sucker.”
- They claim to have a special relationship with Google. While they might resell Google products such as pay per click advertising and Google Apps, they do not have a relationship with Google that will help you, the attorney, with your SEO. If they insist, make them sign an affidavit that outlines their relationship with Google and the results that shall spring from it. If they do sign it, make sure to check their criminal history, because you may be dealing with either the criminally insane or the uncommonly stupid.
- They try to sell you pay per click advertising. Pay-per-click advertising is not SEO, in fact it's the opposite of SEO. Pay-per-click advertising has it's place, but not in the same sentence as SEO. For lawyers, this should be an unreconcilable inconsistency that should warrant either an immediate hang-up, or some serious cross-examination practice if you're so inclined.
- They provide an automatically generated SEO report that purports to show you what is wrong on your site. Think of these reports of the equivalent of a software program to which a criminal defendant could upload a copy of his police report and the software would report what is “wrong” with the State's case. Could be entertaining, but is complete bullshit and a pure sales tool. The sleazy part of these reports is that they are sales tools passed off as substantive information.
- They claim to know about a Google algorithm update. Another lie, unless they've stolen Google's work product, which is unlikely, as why would somebody that is that connected or that diabolically smart be cold calling you to provide law firm SEO at a couple grand a month?
When you are talking with somebody who claims to be an expert in SEO for lawyers, it is helpful to understand how their various business models operate....
For the rest of the story, please visit Law Firm SEO: Myths and Realities