The Digital Marketing Service FindLaw offers stands as a cornerstone for many law firms, but beneath the surface lies an intricacy that often goes unnoticed. They’ve meticulously structured their contracts and SEO strategies to serve their own interests more than those of your firm.
Certainly, the pursuit of acquiring and retaining clients aligns with universal aspirations. However, it’s crucial to recognize that locking clients into a potentially confining arrangement (usually a 3 year contract) doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests. Regrettably, this is a sentiment shared by numerous FindLaw clients.
Once you commit and sign a FindLaw contract, whether it’s a renewal or you’re joining as a new client, the wheels are set in motion, much like any other agency engagement. This entails tasks like crafting your firm’s website, shaping your client’s content using their exclusive platform, and possibly enhancing your firm’s visibility on various online directories, among other local SEO activities. On the surface, it may appear favorable, but let’s delve deeper into how their primary SEO directory system primarily serves their objectives rather than yours.
By enrolling clients in their directory system, FindLaw can channel traffic through various “tiered” service levels. What does this really entail, you might wonder?
The Conflict Of Interest
You read that right. The dreaded conflict of interest… Chances are FindLaw outranks your website on Google for most of – if not all – of the keywords your law firm is targeting with your SEO efforts. Yes, even for existing FindLaw clients this is still the case.
Let’s back it up a bit and break things down.
Google is the number one search engine people use, boasting 88% of the market share over other search engines. This is one of those ‘duh’ moments, isn’t it?! Moving on to something you may not already know…
According to SpyFu, approximately 85% of the traffic going to FindLaw’s website comes from search engines.
This means that approximately 3 out of every 4 people visiting the FindLaw website come from Google.
FindLaw ranks for more SEO keywords than any other legal directory. Yay for them, right? That fact alone may inspire you to consider partnering with FindLaw to help your law firm gain visibility.
But what happens when you’re competing for the same keywords?
Have you also considered the fact that they’re selling you SEO services, targeting keywords they will never outrank you for? And they’re selling these same services to your competitors?
The fact that they rely so heavily on the use of SEO and Google Search to drive traffic to their website – and considering the fact that it’s one of their biggest selling points – it should be obvious that they will never allow you, as their client, to outrank them. Ranking for keywords is competitive, and FindLaw needs to rank well to bring in the money. And thus presents the conflict of interest.
Let’s Talk Links
Link building is an integral part of any SEO plan. Why? Because links coming from another website with a high domain authority can help improve your website. For some of you, this is another one of those ‘duh’ moments, I get that, but here’s where it gets interesting.
FindLaw, a directory website, also offers services to law firms such as building, hosting and maintaining websites along with SEO. And this is in addition to their packages of advertising on their directories. Notice the plural there?
That’s right. FindLaw is a part of Thomson Reuters. Have you heard of SuperLawyers or WestLaw? If you’re a lawyer, no doubt you’ve heard of those by now. What do all of those companies have in common? Apart from most of them being directory websites, of course… They’re owned by Thomson Reuters, the same company that owns FindLaw.
Interestingly, a company called Internet Brands owns Martindale, Nolo, lawyers.com and Avvo. Yet more directory websites catering to lawyers.
While you’re contracted with FindLaw for SEO, sure, they’ll build you links on their bevy of websites, but what happens if you choose to leave? You probably guessed it, but those links you paid good money to have built will be taken down.
We’re all familiar with the fact that SEO isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, and that’s certainly the case with Thomson Reuters. Behind the scenes, they’ve woven a complex web of profiles containing information about you, your firm, and even your competitors. Chances are, when you signed your MSA or contract, you inadvertently agreed to have your profile listed on Superlawyers.com. These profiles hold the key to generating genuine SEO value for your website. Moreover, in challenging times, Thomson Reuters possesses a plethora of other website directory products at their disposal. They can swiftly place you in these directories to boost your traffic or elevate your profile in search results. But here’s the catch.
The primary issue lies in the limited number of top positions available on these directories. Once you’ve ceased prodding your representative or account manager, it becomes effortless for them to withdraw your profile from these prime spots and promote someone else. When you reach out to them, they might even claim to be granting you complimentary access to top positions or additional directories for a limited duration.
Here’s the kicker… The contract you sign with them and the SEO efforts they provide for you benefits them more than your law firm.
Is FindLaw Stealing Your SEO Efforts?
The most significant issue here is that those directory listings they built for you tend to vanish into thin air, along with the valuable links they provide. What you need to understand is, Google considers links from high-value websites and directories, especially those with high Domain Authority, as a crucial factor in website ranking. When these links disappear, Google interprets it as a problem with YOUR website’s authority. Additionally, all these links, originating from the same IP address to the same IP address, are also benefiting your competitors who have FindLaw websites. It’s worth noting that this scenario ultimately works in favor of FindLaw because these directories receive backlinks from various websites, including yours and your competitors’. As a result, most of what you’re investing in for SEO with FindLaw ends up strengthening the domain authority of their properties. Consequently, this helps them secure top positions in Google search results alongside your competition.
Regrettably, this example has played out multiple times with our clients, and what’s even more disheartening is that FindLaw might have taken advantage of clients who aren’t aware that they’re merely pursuing and retaining business. Whether by design or by chance, this approach to conducting business doesn’t serve your law firm’s interests.
You can verify this for yourself with a quick Google search right now. As I did, you’ll likely observe one or more FindLaw properties at the top of the search results. Even when you search for your practice area, you’ll find links to their practice area pages featuring all your competitors. Before getting too incensed, take a moment to review your contract. It’s quite likely they’ve covered this in the fine print. The primary concern with FindLaw’s MSA is the absence of a non-compete clause in the agreement. Essentially, this means that FindLaw can promote both you and your competition. However, working with both you and your competitor doesn’t benefit you at all. FindLaw is primarily focused on their own best interests.
With that being said, it’s not all bad. In fact, their extensive directory network can absolutely bring your firm traffic and valuable links. We almost always recommend keeping some of the listings active even after you leave FindLaw’s services.
Expect Better From Your Legal Marketing Partner
While you’re looking at the fine print of your contract, you’ll likely also find that FindLaw owns everything they do for you, including the code, text, listings, and everything in between. Don’t believe us? Give your FindLaw rep a call and ask them to add you to Google Analytics, Google Search Console and provide you with the usernames and passwords for the citations they’ve built for your firm. The proof is in the pudding, my friend.
With FindLaw, or any marketing agency you partner with, you want to know that the money your law firm is spending will bring you results. The bottom line to marketing is, after all, the ROI, right? And not just for the first few months, but on an ongoing basis you should be seeing consistent improvement and ROI for your money spent.
If you’ve been considering or already engaged with FindLaw’s Marketing Services, we encourage you to take a moment to connect with us. At Precision Legal Marketing, we believe in putting your needs first, even if it means not utilizing our services.
We understand that the legal industry’s digital landscape can be complex, and we’re here to provide clarity and solutions tailored to your specific goals. Whether you have questions, concerns, or are simply exploring your options, our team is ready to assist you.
Our commitment to your success goes beyond just providing services – it’s about forming a partnership that empowers your law firm to thrive online. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at 877-602-7510. Let’s discuss how we can work together to achieve your digital marketing objectives and help your firm stand out in the competitive legal market.